– flags it for numerous financial improprieties
The Amerindian Purposes Fund, which was established in 2000, has not only been flagged for numerous financial improprieties by Auditor General (AG), Deodat Sharma in his 2014 report; its legal status has also been brought into question.
Sharma said that while the formerly named Ministry of Amerindian Affairs had claimed it established the fund in keeping with a provision in Section 26 of the Amerindian Act, Chapter 29:01; this Act was later repealed by Section 84 of the Amerindian Act (2006), which had not in itself provided for the operation of the Fund.
Nonetheless, the original Act, at Section 29, required the preparation of financial statements and an audit by the Auditor General. He stressed that this, even though not captured in the current Act, are best practice requirements of any accounting process, but were never satisfied since the opening of the Fund.
The Ministry informed Sharma that it has written the Ministry of Legal Affairs twice for advice on the way forward to ensure the legality of the fund is replenished. However, to date, a reply has not been received and a reminder will be sent to the Ministry.
The AG’s office nevertheless advised that the Ministry must aggressively follow up this matter with the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
Sharma then proceeded to list a number of observations which were made in relation to the operations of the Amerindian Purposes Fund for prior years, most of which continued in 2014.
He noted that at the end of 2011, there were two transactions valued at $292,500, which were awaiting the Finance Secretary’s approval before the Fund could be restored.
These transactions were related to the year 2007. Although approval was received from the Finance Secretary and a cheque to the value of $292,500 was drawn, the amount was still not deposited into the Fund.
Sharma said that a cash book was maintained, but this was not updated for the period November 2009 to December 2010. In relation to the years 2011 to 2013, although entries were made in the book, it was not balanced at the end of each month. This situation continued in 2014. Bank reconciliation, which was done up to November 2009, also reflected an unreconciled balance of $11,362. At the time of reporting in September 2015, no other bank reconciliation statements were prepared.
The AG asserted that the sum of $11.314M was received in 2012 but was only acknowledged by the Ministry until April 2013. The reasons for the late acknowledgement could not be ascertained. Further, receipts totaling $1.105 billion, applicable to year 2013, were traced to the bank account but were not recorded in the cash book during 2013.
He said that a similar situation existed in 2014, where amounts totaling $27.793M, for which no receipts were seen, were deposited into the bank account but the amounts were not recorded in the cash book. In addition, receipts were written for amounts totaling $1.278M and deposited in the bank account but were not entered in the cash book.
The AG said that what also defied accounting best practices was the fact that payment vouchers, which were presented for audit, were not numbered and examined by the competent officer.
Further, he said that the cash book was not properly maintained; all payments were not recorded therein. As a result, the balance on the Fund at a given time could not be ascertained from the records. This situation continued last year as well.
Sharma noted too that the Ministry expended the sum of $29.899M in 2013 to undertake construction and extension works in Amerindian Villages and Communities.
However, at the time of reporting, the Ministry was not in receipt of progress reports or other evidence to validate completion of the works. As a result, the Audit Office was unable to ascertain the status of the works.
Sharma expressed that there was also a lack of control over advances issued during the period under review.
He noted that an advance register was not kept and advance forms were not numbered in keeping with sound accounting procedures.
Further, it could not be determined by the Audit office whether all advances were repaid by the officers and whether these amounts were reimbursed to the Fund.
A similar situation existed in 2014 where 73 advances totaling $21.776M were issued. Also included in the 73 advances were 27 salary advances totaling $1.089M.
The AG also found that the Ministry paid sums totaling $82.859M to Community Support Officers in Regions Number Eight and Nine in 2013. Despite repeated requests to verify this amount, the Ministry only provided two payment vouchers totaling $35.580M. Both lacked documentation and one for an amount of $18.720M was not acknowledged by the payee. As a result, the accuracy and validity of the amount of $82.859M paid could not be determined. Equipment, tools and other items purchased for Regions/Villages were not inventoried.
The Auditor General said that a similar situation continued to exist in 2014.
He noted that strict control procedures were not exercised in the receipt and distribution of goods or assets purchased for Amerindian Villages. In providing an example to support this observation, Sharma said that even though acquisitions were recorded in the Stock Ledger, no annotation was made when the items were transferred to the various Amerindian Villages.
This sad state of affairs was not changed, but allowed to continue into last year.
The Ministry had no proper defense for many of the financial improprieties outlined by the AG but promised that corrective action is being taken to resolve these issues.
Sharma emphasized that it is important for the Ministry now renamed the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs to take appropriate measures to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the operation of the Fund.
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