KINGSTON –– The Auditor General’s Department has expressed concern about some $560 million worth of goods and services approved at two meetings of the Ministry of Education’s procurement committee, which were attended by only two of its nine members.
“At meetings held on February 29, 2012, and July 31, 2013, only two members were present, and recommendations were made to the National Contracts Commission Sector Committee for approval to purchase goods and services valuing approximately $533 million and $17 million, respectively, despite the quorum being five [four members and one observer],” Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis stated in her report tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Monroe Ellis said that although her department’s auditors were informed that nine people had been appointed to the ministry’s procurement committee, despite their requests for the appointment letters to be shown to them, they were never presented to them.
She said that during the audit, the Ministry of Education did not demonstrate that the activities of its procurement committee were in compliance with the government of Jamaica’s Handbook Of Public Sector Procurement Procedures.
“The absence of proper records of the meetings contravenes Section 18.104.22.168 of the GOJ Handbook Of Public Sector Procurement Procedures,” she said. The relative section of the handbook requires that “proper minutes must be recorded and maintained for each meeting”.
She pointed out, too, that the guidelines required that the quorum should be predetermined by the chairman, and that no meeting was properly convened in the absence of that quorum.
According to Monroe Ellis, her department’s auditors also found that the ministry’s Master Inventory Records were not maintained in accordance with Ministry of Finance’s Control Of Government Furniture, Office Machines And Equipment Guidelines.
“The records did not contain all the requisite information, such as delivery slip numbers, dates of procurement and related costs. Consequently, we were unable to verify whether assets costing $14,151,688.60 and US$149,006.48, which were procured during the financial years 2011/2012 to 2013/2014, were properly accounted for,” she stated.
“The poor maintenance of the inventory also prevents adequate safeguard of Government’s assets and could facilitate theft and irregularities,” she added.
She said the ministry had also purchased an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) for $32.6 million to protect its electronic and other equipment from damage due to electrical power surges. However, up to October 2014 the UPS was not commissioned into service.
The ministry said it did not have the $163 million to carry out the work to improve the infrastructure of the buildings to facilitate the installation of the UPS. However, the ministry was unable to explain why it purchased the UPS prior to ensuring that the requisite resources were in place for the commissioning of the equipment.
She said that, consequently, in its current position, the UPS is being exposed to the elements, and its value had been deteriorating without the ministry realizing it.