Warmington ready to question auditor general
AFTER nearly 17 years of trying, Cabinet minister Everald Warmington says he welcomes the opportunity to grill the auditor general about her department’s expenditure issues, as she has been doing to other government ministries, departments and agencies over the years.
“This time she won’t be asking all the questions. She has to answer questions about her department, too,” Warmington told the Jamaica Observer.
He said that he is looking forward to the report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives last week, being sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament as early as possible for review of the issues arising from it. This is a task which Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis did not have up to recently as her department did its own internal audits in the past.
“Once she lays a report in the House, automatically it has to go to the PAC. Now the report is about her department, so I expect that it will go straight to the committee, too, so that members can examine it and ask her questions, too,” Warmington said.
He said that he has been insisting that the Auditor General’s Department become externally audited, like other ministries, departments and agencies of Government, on an annual basis and the report submitted to Parliament to be reviewed by the PAC, like any other report, since 2003 without any success.
“My request has passed through four ministers of finance —Omar Davies, Audley Shaw, Peter Phillips and now Nigel Clarke. All this time we have been unable to ask specific questions of the auditor general’s handling of her own department because they ignored my request,” Warmington said.
He said that at one stage, Dr Clarke had provided him with answers to some specific questions he had asked, but it was suggested that the answers be delayed, as the day they were to be answered by the minister, he was asked to postpone it, as then Leader of the Opposition Dr Phillips was supposed to speak that afternoon. He said he was eventually advised to leave the issues alone.
Warmington said that he suggested to the finance minister senior staff at ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) were “scared to death”, because they feared retribution from the auditor general.
He said that he knew that nearly all the things that she has been blaming other MDAs for,are also occurring in inside her department.
The Auditor General’s Department (AuGD) has been under the watch of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service since an audit for 2019, which was tabled last week in the House of Representatives, showed up several breaches.
While reporting that the expenditure process at the AuGD generally conformed to the stipulated guidelines for the payment of public monies, the finance ministry found variances in the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.
Richard Dillon, the chief internal auditor at the finance ministry, said that the audit found 38 instances in which supporting documents for payments were not signed or stamped to show that the service was satisfactorily rendered, as required.
There were almost 60 instances in which supporting documents for payments were not signed or stamped approved for payment.The ministry also warned that improper payments could be made by the AUGD, if the internal controls to support the processing of payments were not adhered to.
In the meantime, the department has posted on its website a message which reads as follows: “In keeping with our core value of being transparent, we invite you to peruse the full internal audit of the report of the AUGD covering the financial years 2015/16, 2017/18 & 2018/19. We welcome the continued review by the MoFPs (Ministry of Finance and the Public Service) as we remain in a mode of continuous improvement.
“We wish to make it clear that the auditors did not identify any procurement breach relating to the $118.7 million expenditure for goods and services over the three-year period. Also, all required contracts are in place. The AuGD maintained that the service level agreements referred to are reflected in the software licence agreements to which we are a party, and upon whose strength we pay the renewal subscriptions.”
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