Under last gov’t, over 9,000 qualified applicants did not receive COVID relief grants
A review of the economic relief to citizens offered by the former APNU+AFC government during the COVID-19 pandemic has found that some over 9,000 qualified applicants did not receive the $25,000 or $32,000 vouchers or hampers through the COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance Voucher Programme.
An estimated 11,000 persons had applied for the grants.
The performance audit for the period March to September 2020 was done to determine how well the programme was managed. It was carried out by the Auditor General’s office.
While the audit found that officials processed COVID-19 vouchers in line with the programme guidelines, significant gaps were noted during the conduct of the audit.
Among the findings is that people who needed assistance were denied and officials have not explained why.
The report noted that the programme excluded persons in the hinterland regions. Instead, they were promised hampers.
“Payments worth millions were not verified. Vouchers totalling $56M were not checked before paying suppliers. This weakness could have resulted in overpayment to suppliers and eligible persons not given much needed relief,” the report added.
It found too that vouchers not used were left unsecured. Over 3000 unused vouchers valued at least $90M were unsecured on a desk. As a result, the vouchers could have been easily accessed and used to obtain items from suppliers.
Further, the report noted that information system was not fully protected and lack of standard controls put the information system at risk.
Therefore, unauthorized persons could have changed or deleted information. In addition, there were no yearly security checks and business continuity and disaster recovery plans prepared.
The Audit Office made 13 recommendations to management for improvements. Through the full implementation of the recommendations, future programmes will be better managed.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance Voucher Programme came into operation in April 2020. The objective of the Programme was to provide economic relief to vulnerable households through the supply of hampers with fresh foods, dry ration, toiletries, and sanitation items. The Programme targeted single-parents, senior citizens, disabled persons, and persons who suffered a loss of income due to the pandemic.
Persons interested in benefiting from the Programme were required to register online. Those without internet access were required to contact either the Ministry of Social Protection or the Ministry of Communities to have their application forms completed.
Applicants were then shortlisted based on eligibility criteria approved by the Ministry of Finance. Eligible applicants’ information was verified and approved.
Vouchers valued between $25,000 and $32,000 were dispatched by the Post Office.