…Forensic Auditors also found it to be grossly overstaffed
By: Kiana A. Wilburg
There is just no way forensic auditors can fathom why the One Laptop Per Family Project (OLPF) required 16 Departments and 133 employees. Based on this newspaper’s perusal of past and current budget estimates, this project happens to be one of the few projects which had more departments than some Government Ministries. These would include the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, which have at most six to nine Departments.
Even the Ministry of Business for example, has less than 16 Departments and less than 100 staff members.
The auditors from Ram and McRae, Chartered Accountants, said, too, that the Project Manager at the time, Margot Boyce, failed to justify why the project required such a huge staff size during the years 2012 to 2014, particularly since distributions were not carried out on a continuous basis and the procedures leading to distributions were relatively straightforward.
During their investigations, the auditors found that the organizational structure for the project was one that did not allow for a Board of Directors or Board of Management. Instead, it only paved the way for management by the Department Heads under the Project Manager and Deputy Project Manager.
Based on an examination of the Project’s personnel records, it was found that OLPF consisted of 16 departments which included; Information Technology, Training , Registry, Public Relations, Warehouse , Human Recourse, Project Support, Administration, Quality Assurance, Accounts, Data Entry, Documentation, Customer Service, Community Liaison, Verification and Data Audit.
The auditors then identified a number of gross irregularities and unjustifiable circumstances within the various OLPF Departments.
THE ACCOUNTS DEPARTMENT
The forensic auditors found that the Accounts Department had an average of five employees during the period April, 2012 to December 2014. They said that the principal functions of the Accounts Department were the preparation of monthly payroll, managing of petty cash and sending suppliers, trainers’ and hubs’ invoices received from the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU).
The Project Manager was unable to provide satisfactory reasons to the Ram and McRae auditors for such a large Accounts Department being maintained by the Project to perform basic tasks which could have been performed by one individual. Salaries for the accounting employees amounted to$460,000 per month, being a total of $15 million for the period April, 2012 to December, 2014.
THE REGISTRY DEPARTMENT
In this department, auditors noted that it consisted of an average number of three individuals, who were employed from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2014. These employees were paid a total gross salary of $360,000 per month, which amounted to $8.6 million for the period of their employment.
According to Ms. Boyce, the department’s only responsibility was to ensure applications, recipients’ contracts and signature sheets were filed in an orderly manner and in accordance with the department’s Standard Operational Procedures.
During the auditors’ investigation of the filing system, it was noted that the specified documents for the years 2011 to 2013 were not filed in an appropriate manner. In fact, the forensic auditing team said that applications, recipients’ contracts and signature sheets for the years 2011 to 2013 were placed in boxes and stored in the warehouse located at Forshaw Street, Queenstown.
They opined that the objective of the Registry Department was not achieved since the employees were only able to accurately file 2014 documents during their two years of employment.
THE QUALITY ASSURANCE DEPARTMENT
According to the forensic audit report, the Quality Assurance Department consisted of an average of two employees from April 2012 to December 2014. However, in January, 2015, an additional eight persons were hired as Quality Assurance Officers which raised the department’s salary expenses by over $1 million per month. The Project Manager was unable to provide any reason to the auditors for the additional appointments at that stage of the Project. It was noted, too, that Quality Assurance Officers were generally responsible for supervising distributions, checking of payrolls, ensuring the databases were updated and overlooking the de stuffing of containers.
THE VERIFICATION DEPARTMENT
The Auditors discovered that the Verification Department was by far, the largest department of the OLPF Project. They said that the Verification Officers were tasked with the responsibility of confirming the information submitted by applicants, including address, identification number, total household income, etc.
During the period December 2011 to December 2014, the auditors found that the Department had an average of 44 and as much as 66 Verification Officers. Each Verification Officer they said, was paid a monthly basic salary $80,000 per month, plus a non taxable travel allowance of $30,000 per month, average total salary cost being $4.8 million per month.
The Project Manager informed the auditors that Verification Officers were not required to report to work on a daily basis nor provide any reports based on the work conducted. In this regard, based on the concept of value for money, the Ram and McRae auditors opined that a cost effective decision would have been to pay Verification Officers for days work or per recipient visit.
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