‘Unlawful and untidy’ – Teixeira says as Reg. #5 without answers for 2017, 2018 breaches 

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The Regional Administration of Region Five, led by the Regional Executive Officer Genevieve Blackman, made an appearance before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, but after an hour of examination, they were sent away for failure to bring clarity to several financial irregularities flagged by the Auditor General in the 2017 and 2018 audits.

Member of Parliament (MP) Ganesh Mahipaul, who was chairing the meeting at the time, said it would provide the regional administration more time to meet with the Auditor General, the Accountant General and the Finance Secretary so that the PAC can be accurately informed.

Blackman could not answer several of the questions put to her and at times even referred the questions to the Audit Office representatives present at the meeting. Other times the answers she provided contradicted the findings of the AG’s office.

The issue also rests on the fact that Blackman was not the REO during 2017 and 2018.

MPs spent several minutes in a debate over the inability of the Region 5 REO to respond to questions.

Works Minister Juan Edghill believes that enough was not done to make contact with the previous REO Ovid Morrison who, according to Blackman, the Police Commissioner said was not in the jurisdiction between November and December 2021.

Edghill was the first to register his disapproval and said he doesn’t believe that it was logical to have questions posed when the current REO could not answer.

Blackman also complained of not given the courtesy of a proper hand over by Morrison.

Opposition MPs argued that the REO has other support staff who should be able to assist with answers and proceeded to pose questions, but they continued to be stonewalled.

Among the contentious issues that arose, however, was the issue of prepayment for services.

MP Gail Teixeira was particularly concerned about the misuse of budgeted funds for payment of staff.

An audit examination of the payroll for January to December 2017, revealed that amounts totalling $4.425M were paid to 58 contracted employees of which 16 are eligible to be transferred to the pensionable establishment.

Further, it was noted that the Regional Administration continued to hire employee on a contractual basis with 14 such persons being offered employment during 2017.

Also, according to the National Estimates, amounts totalling $1.477 billion were budgeted for Employment Costs for a staff complement of 1,071. As of 31 December 2018, amounts totalling $1.474 billion were expended for 1,132 staff as shown below.

This represents 61 staff more than was budgeted for and $3M under the budgeted expenditure. As such, it would appear that Employment Costs were over-budgeted.

Teixeira said based on the region’s response the concern is much more serious than the findings of the AG.

She said it amounted to using unbudgeted sums to hire and pay staff without approval from the Finance Secretary amounted to an “unlawful and untidy arrangement.”

“The biggest crime is that there was the use of money from unauthorised heads to pay staff… that a major issue,” he added.

Questions on this anomaly could not be properly answered by the REO.

The PAC hopes that upon return the Region Five Administration would be better positioned to respond to questions and the previous REO would be helpful to the process.

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