In addition to owing the Barbados Light & Power Company more than $7 million, some Government ministries and departments have not been accurately reporting overseas travel expenses, says Auditor General Leigh Trotman.
“The Barbados Light & Power Company confirmed that at the March 31, 2018, the Ministry of Transport and Works owed $7.238 million for the supply of electricity. There was no evidence of this amount being expensed as required. As a result, expenses for utilities by the Government were understated by this amount. There was also no evidence that a liability for this amount was recorded in the financial statements,” said Trotman.
In relation to overseas travel expenses, Trotman said it was observed that many officers were not submitting the relevant bill for their overseas trip, and therefore the expenses for the respective ministries and departments were not being reported.
These were among the findings of the 2018 Auditor General’s Report, which was recently tabled in Parliament.
The document, which reviewed the period April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, said the Ministry of Transport and Works owed the electric utility company more than $7 million and there was no evidence that the amount was being offset.
With regard to travel expenses, accountability was raised as a matter for concern by Trotman.
“Officers are required to submit these bills in accordance with Government’s administrative directives. In some cases the bills could be less than the estimated hotel cost and in such circumstances the officer would be required to reimburse any unused amount. These bills provide evidence of the actual cost of the accommodation and should be handed in by the officers,” he said.
However, Trotman said as at March 31, 2018, accommodation advances outstanding was $1.96 million, with the Ministry of Health accounting for the largest amount of $489,683.90.
The then Ministry of the Environment and National Beautification accounted for $265,806.60 in outstanding accommodation advances, while the Prime Minister’s Office accounted for $88,907.63 and the Attorney General was responsible for $79,740.58.
The report did not say which ministries and departments shared the remaining $1 million.
According to the report, unauthorized asset purchases within the Police Department also came up for comment for the period under review.
Trotman said the goods totaling $754,838.65 including computers and pick-up trucks that were not approved in the Estimates of expenditure by Parliament. He warned: “Funds approved by Parliament should be used only for the purpose intended.”
The police department has since indicated that “this matter will be rectified” but did not say how.
The 163-page report also pointed to a lack of contracts to support payments exceeding $50,000 for work carried out in relation to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth.
According to the auditor general, Financial Rule 222 requires that items or services exceeding the cost of $50,000 must be supported by a contract and while the auditors requested contracts for a sample of 15 suppliers who were paid a total of $2.9 million, either for services rendered or for providing items that cost in excess of $50,000, no contracts were presented for three of those suppliers.
He said there was also no evidence that the selection process for contracts was followed.
According to Financial Rules 222 (1), (2) and (4), before authorized officers accept contracts for services or supplies exceeding $50,000, they are required to either, obtain at least three written quotations for services or supplies between $50,000 and $200,000; or invite tenders for services or supplies exceeding $200,000.
“With respect to a number of suppliers, no documentation was presented to indicate that a selection process was used or that quotations were received and evaluated for services rendered,” he said.
“In this regard, there was no evidence that a fair and transparent process was in place when the selection was made with respect to the suppliers,” he added.
Trotman said in the absence of the selection process, there is the increased risk of biased selection, and uncertainty as to whether the fees charged were the most reasonable.
The report pointed out that the accounts of some Government agencies and departments were being audited, while others have not been made available. Some have been outstanding in excess of seven years.
Since coming to office a year ago, the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party administration has indicated that all statutory entities are to bring their accounts up to date by this year.
Trotman described this as “a tall order”.