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PSs get six weeks to deal with issues over accounting
Finance Minister Larry Howai has given all ministerial permanent secretaries until July 31 to explain and resolve issues of malpractice and lack of accountability raised by Auditor General Sharman Ottley. This was decided after Howai held a meeting with the permanent secretaries, including Head of the Public Service Reynold Cooper. The meeting was held to discuss a damning report from Ottley which showed that Government ministries had paid millions of dollars in overpayments to contract employees without proper documentation or accountability. Among the ministries highlighted was the Ministry of Sport, under which the controversial Life Sport programme falls. This programme is currently being audited by the Ministry of Finance.
Ottley said an examination of records and documents showed non-compliance with financial instructions, financial regulations and other financial directives by permanent secretaries. He also said reports on appropriation accounts were not received from 13 accounting officers by the Auditor’s General Office up to January 31, 2013. At the meeting, Howai said all permanent secretaries would have more than six weeks to resolve queries of accountability raised by Ottley, who submitted a copy of his report to House Speaker Wade Mark on April 29, 2013.
Expressing concerns about the report, Howai called on all permanent secretaries and their accounting officers to enquire into discrepancies.
While acknowledging that human resource constraints affected all ministries, Howai drew attention to several key areas identified in Ottley’s report, including late and/or incomplete replies to the queries of the Auditor General, inventory control, overpayments, inadequate payment voucher records and payments to contract employees and suppliers made without the necessary paperwork. Several initiatives were identified for improving compliance in these areas, while the permanent secretaries raised concerns of their own. The meeting ended with the minister instructing all permanent secretaries to furnish him with reports detailing how the breaches highlighted by Ottley are being resolved. Efforts to contact Howai and Cooper for further comment were unsuccessful yesterday, as calls to their phones went unanswered.
What the report contained
In his report the auditor general outlined exorbitant increases by the various ministries. Among these are;
1. In the Ministry of Sport, expenditure moved from $28.786 million in 2011 to $395.884 million in 2012, a variance of $367.098 million or a 1,275 per cent increase.
2. In the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, expenditure moved from $514,999 million in 2011 to $2.4 billion, a variance of $1.9 billion or 378 per cent.
3. In the Ministry of Transport, expenditure moved from $218.585 million in 2011 to $1.1 billion in 2012, a variance of $843 million or 386 per cent.
4. In the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, expenditure moved from $62.8 million to $208.6 million, a variance of $145.7 million or 232 per cent.
5. In the Ministry of Justice, expenditure moved from $126.5 million in 2011 to $408 million in 2012, a variance of $281 million or 222 per cent.
6. In the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, expenditure moved from $46 million in 2011 to $137.5 million in 2012, a variance of $90.9 million or 194 per cent.
7. In the Ministry of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs, expenditure moved from $1 billion to $1.9 billion, a variance of $924 million or 90 per cent.