Mar 28, 2016 News
– despite acquiring superior system for $5.1M in 2011
By Jarryl Bryan
A forensic audit conducted into the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund (SILWF) has revealed that the fund has been operating a manual or ‘paper and pen’ accounting system, despite the organization acquiring a superior, more efficient system in 2011.
The audit’s review of the accounting system was carried out on September 04, 2015 and has found that the fund could have been far more productive and services to sugar workers could have been better, if the more efficient system, formerly known as the Enterprise Resource Planning (ACCPAC) software, had been used.
“The ACCPAC accounting software, comprising of four modules was installed by New Technologies Enterprise, an authorized service provider, at a cost of $5.164M. After over three years, it is yet to be operational, with a high volume of accounting work still to be completed for years 2012 to 2014.”
Sage 300 ERP (present system) is an award-winning financial system that integrates other business solutions, including ERP, Business Intelligence, EDI, Point-of-Sale and Warehouse Management.
The auditors found that while the Bookkeeping staff, an Accountant (a Level Three ACCA student) and four accounting personnel (two Senior Clerks, a Grade Two Typist Clerks and a Grade One Typist Clerk) all seemed comfortable in the mediocre system of accounting, SILWF could have optimized its duties, which include granting loans to sugar workers.
“They are generally comfortable operating in the existing manual system,” the report stated. “And perhaps may have contributed to the ERP (ACCPAC) becoming a ‘white elephant’ up to the present time.”
While the accounting system at the time of review was certainly not up to par and $5M was spent on what became a ‘White elephant’, the auditor did acknowledge that the Accountant was generally capable of carrying out duties and that the department is sufficiently staffed.
According to the report, however, the committee that governs the SILWF and the Fund’s Administrative Manager have over the years just accepted the laid back culture to the Fund’s system and do not pressure the organization as a whole to be more productive.
“With the same complement of staff, SILWF can accelerate its activities in granting loans to sugar workers and intensifying rehabilitation works for the benefit of sugar workers.”
According to the Auditor, it would appear that the decision to acquire this software was both poorly planned and executed. However, in view of the money already spent, the Auditor recommended the purchase of a server which is required to make the system work.
“To obtain the benefits from this system, SILWFC should purchase the Server that is now required as soon as possible,” it said. “It is our view that in a small accounting environment as SILWF, basic off-the-shelf accounting software such as Quickbooks or Sage would have sufficed.”
Lapses in accounting & debt recovery
The Auditor made further indictments on the current accounting system. It was noted that despite being suggested by the Auditor General’s office, a cash book is currently not maintained. Instead, an alternative method of tracking payments is employed.
“The Accountant maintains a computerized Spreadsheet of all expenses and income from which he prepares an Income & Expenditure Statement (on a cash basis). The Accountant, however, does not maintain a system to track the bank balance. But SILWF runs an Imprest system (where a fixed amount is reserved, at present $9M) and as funds are spent, the Imprest account is replenished.”
The Auditor noted that the Accountant is expected to carry out bank reconciliations regularly, after collecting the bank statements each month from the Bank of Guyana. It is understood that one person from SILWF is authorized by the Finance Ministry to collect the statements.
However, the Auditor has highlighted a worrying fact. The last bank reconciliation was done for the month of June 2015, when, in keeping with best practice, this reconciliation should have been done promptly every month.
The auditor has also flagged SILWF for not maintaining a list of unpaid invoices by date ranges, which would show overdue payments. This is because the management believes that all of its loans are secured by sufficient collateral that will be used to recoup losses. This practice, according to the report, has caused SILWF not to maintain a Debt Collection Department.
“SILWF does not maintain an aged receivables listing. However, they are of the view that all loans granted are secured by sufficient collateral which can be used to recoup for any losses,” the auditor stated. “It follows therefore that SILWF does not maintain a Debt Collection Department nor is legal action taken against long standing bad debtors.”
The SILWF forensic audit, which was one of many announced by the Granger-led administration upon coming into office last year, was conducted by Maurice Solomon, to the tune of $4.7M. It is one of several recently released by the Ministry of Finance.
Some of the other worrying findings have been that for years, there were no audited financial statements. The Criminal Investigative Department (CID) had at one point even become involved in investigating the case of the missing $35M from the Fund.
The SILWF is controlled and administered by a Committee. This Committee is required to facilitate disbursements for the benefit and welfare of sugar workers. Such disbursements include home loans to sugar workers, developing housing areas, and to provide water subsidies.
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