Prime Minister Mia Mottley is not at all amused by the findings of the 2017 Auditor General Report.
In fact, in light of the latest findings, she is promising a full review of “every area of Government”, with a view to carrying out the necessary house cleaning.
One of the glaring irregularities highlighted in the 186-page report by Auditor General Leigh Trotman is the overpayment of salaries at five state entities to the tune of $3.78 million as at December 31, 2017.
These are the Prison Department, in the amount of $134, 123.57; the Ministry of Transport and Works, $134,155.07; the Ministry of Health, $719,606.49; the Ministry of Education, $564,473.55; Ministry of Agriculture, $60, 884.42 and the Police Department, $1,764, 669.26.
The main reason given for the overpayments, the Auditor General said, was “the payment of full salaries to officers when they should be on no pay or half pay leave as a result of extended sick leave”, and in the case of the Police Department, Trotman further explained that the affected officers were also enjoying benefits for employment injury from the National Insurance Scheme.
With these financial irregularities now coming to light, Mottley told business leaders attending Wednesday’s Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, that once her review was done, the problems would be addressed.
“I am not going to go into details today, but you have to be able first and foremost, to verify your payroll. That is the first thing. If you can’t verify your payroll you have a problem. And if people are being certified as being there by supervisors then we have a problem with them too. So we are not going to have a situation of those kinds of things continuing,” she said in reference to the report.
“Secondly you cannot belong to the same Government in different departments and then tell me that you can’t have access or you not talking to each other because then clearly you want to work in a different Government in a different republic. So all of these things – a lack of communication, lack of verification, review of systems – all of these things have led to the inefficiency, some of which you see being reflected in the Auditor General’s Report, much of which doesn’t even get there,” Mottley added.
Questions were also raised by the Auditor General about $1.1 billion in loans to statutory entities as at March 31, 2017, with Trotman pointing out that while these organizations were required to repay the amounts advanced, “no loan payments or reimbursements were received”.
He also took issue with the fact that many of the advancements were made to state agencies which lack the capacity to repay, while pointing to a $60 million loan to the loss-making Transport Board.
“In other cases there is uncertainty about the value of the receivables. This would include the advance [of $120 million] made [back in 2013] to Clearwater Bay with respect to the Four Seasons Project,” the Auditor General said, while stating that “there is no current information on this asset that would help in the assessment of its value”.
During, the financial year 2004/2005 an amount of $4.6 million was also advanced to the state-owned Needham’s Point Holdings Limited to facilitate construction of the Hilton Hotel.
Since then, that loan has accumulated nearly $2 million in interest, but no payment has been made on the principal, with no evidence of efforts to recover the outstanding debt even though the hotel was recently due to be put up for sale.
In his new report released earlier this month, the Auditor General also outlined a number of unpaid loans to non-governmental agencies, as well as dishonoured cheques, unverified balances and other financial irregularities, with Mottley giving a commitment that “we are going to review every area of Government and make sure that we are in a position to validate and verify what the taxpayers’ money is being spent on.
“We do it because we want to spend money on things that we know will make a difference to either Barbados’s efficiency, its quality of life, its competitiveness and its ability to be able to create a platform for growth and wealth for its citizens,” the Prime Minister added, while revealing that on Tuesday alone she had five meetings across several ministries.