Audit finds ghost entities were funded by SLED programme under APNU+AFC
The audit report into the operations of the Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) under the APNU+AFC government has revealed that that ghost entities created for the siphoning off of funds.
The report, seen by the News Room, was finalised on March 30, 2023 and provided to Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton on April 17. It supports the Auditor General’s initial statements that multiple projects and funds were mismanaged by the APNU/AFC Coalition government as millions were injected into projects that never existed or were utilised for personal use.
Irregularities included multiple projects issued directly by the Ministry of Social Protection.
In addition, the documents which support reason for allocations of funds for several projects could not be provided to the investigating team.
Initially, it was reported that $294 million was injected into the programme but according to the report, several allocations that were done for the period 2018 to 2020 amounted to approximately $371 million.
The audit was conducted under direct orders by the Auditor General’s Office and the evidence supports that the Ministry needs to implement a robust filing system to ensure all documents are centralised and sorted in a systematic manner.
The SLED is intended to fund community-based projects.
Some $169.5M was issued to Region 9 but the audit examination of a sample of beneficiaries’ filed revealed that application forms were not completed despite it being a requirement. According to the report, many of the projects did not have relevant documents to verify the correct allocations of the grants.
The other regions that benefited under the SLED programme in 2019 were Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10. The Lima Sands Women Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society Limited which consisted of several projects including the Akawini, Lower Pomeroon Garment Factory and the Grand Victoria, Pomeroon which were allocated a total sum of $8,587,675, was abandoned and inoperable with the monies seemingly put to personal use.
A visit was conducted on the site of Grand Victoria Pomeroon. The team found that the facility built was abandoned by the beneficiaries and is currently housing squatters. The representative of the beneficiary informed the team that the society was never functional and the objective of operating a “Fruit Processing Facility” was not reached due to lack of cooperation among the beneficiaries.
In Region Five, the Kirby Community Development Society, a project allocated $12,160,676, is abandoned as well. In addition, the location which was utilised for the project is a “Government Reserve” and Permission for the reserve usage was requested by Amna Ally, former Minister of Social Protection.
The conclusion of the report further suggests that a legislation or policy document must be implemented within the Ministry to ensure grants are not given for failed ventures due to lack of proper consultation and follow-up. And, there needs to be greater information sharing and collaboration between the relevant Ministries to ensure these grants are given to Societies that are legally operating.