Despite raising multiple red flags back in 2015 regarding poor adherence to financial accountability protocols, Financial Controller of the Transport Board Felicia Sue claims the concerns were ignored by the management of the state-owned agency.
This was Sue’s testimony this afternoon as the Public Accounts Committee continued its investigations into alleged improprieties at the cash-strapped entity between 2015 and 2018. In fact, Sue testified that she believes that certain aspects of her portfolio were taken away because of her thoroughness in pointing out financial inconsistencies.
In her one-hour testimony this afternoon, accompanied by her legal representative Chester Sue, the Transport Board official explained that she was also concerned that not enough persons were trained on how to use the Magneto management system. She revealed that she sent memos to this effect to management, warning that this could present loopholes in the system.
“As the financial controller there was concerns that there were no manuals and only a few persons knew how to use the system. So if that person was not available then you had to wait and I wanted to ensure that all of the information was being captured to allow for greater efficiency in data collection and recording. Additionally, I wrote that any discrepancies by service providers were more likely to not be reconciled. I wanted to ensure that the financial department could verify work that had been done and that all of the relevant information was being captured,” she said.
When asked by Minister of Labour Colin Jordan if she had come to the position that there was either room for “funny stuff to happen or funny stuff was happening”, Sue noted she was concerned that there was room for “indiscretions”.
“I would say that given my accounting and auditing experience, there was room for indiscretions,” she said noting that her level of discomfort with the modus operandi led her to cover her bases through written memos.
The Auditor General’s report, which triggered a PAC investigation last November said that the Transport Board was charged twice by Trans Tech Inc for the same work done on the same bus, on four occasions. The eight invoices totaled $257,149.08, which was $128,574.54 more than was due. According to the report, the only differences were the invoice numbers on the eight invoices submitted by the supplier.
The report also raised questions about the frequency which the reconditioned transmissions, which were supplied mainly by Trans Tech, were being replaced in the buses, bringing into sharp focus questions of quality assurance. It was charged that on 178 buses, there were 601 transmission installations during the period in question. In one case, a single bus received five transmission installations in 19 months while another had four in five months even though the transmissions were guaranteed to last two years.
This afternoon Sue told the PAC that she had serious concerns about the amount of money being spent in bus repairs especially since it did not translate to more bus availability. “The total level of repairs always jumped out at me. I always had serious concerns about the amount of money we were spending in maintenance and repairs for buses, especially since we were not seeing the results. Bus availability was not reflected in the money spent… I wrote my concerns and the level of productivity versus spending,” she said in reference to the provision of reconditioned transmissions.
Before wrapping up the day’s session, chairman of the PAC, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley questioned whether she was ever given instructions by someone above her to do anything that was contrary to the policies and regulations of the Transport Board. To this, Sue replied in the affirmative.
The witness was advised that due to time constraints, she would be recalled at a later date to elaborate.