Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Pickersgill's ministry in mess over accounts

Published:Wednesday | November 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Minister Fenton Ferguson. File
Minister Lisa Hanna. File
Minister Robert Pickersgill. File

A.C. Countz, Guest Columnist

There appears to be little, if any, interest by ministers, permanent secretaries and boards of publicly owned companies in producing accounts on a timely basis.

This is against a background that most of the public debt was built up by non-central government entities.

Let us look at a sample,the Ministry of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change (WLECC).

National Land Agency:- Last accounts, 2005/06, and no current board in place;

National Environmental Protection Agency: WLECC supplied no information about its accounts;

Rural Water Supply: Last accounts, 2007/08;

National Water Commission: Last accounts, 2009/10

Real Estate Board: Last accounts, 2009/10

Forestry Department: Last accounts, 2009/10, and no current board in place;

Water Resources Authority: Last accounts, 2010/11.

The ministry of WLECC, overseen by Minister Robert Pickersgill, State Minister Ian Hayles and Permanent Secretary Alvin Hales, indicates that when time guidelines for producing accounts are not met, strategies have been implemented to ensure timely submission of accounts.

As is evident above, these sanctions do not appear to be working.

Last accounts, throughout this column, means last accounts available to the public, as reported by the relevant ministry.

Why does Minister Pickersgill and the Permanent Secretary Hales, rather than appear uninterested in accountability, not instruct these organisations to provide, to the public current in-house accounts, along with a statement on the respective websites, as to when current audits will be completed?

In fairness, the Minister inherited this mess. The ministry, in its current form, was only constituted in January 2012.

Hanna's ministry gets failing grade

The Ministry of Youth and Culture has at least 14 organisations reporting to it that should produce public accounts.

These include Institute of Jamaica, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Jamaica National Heritage Trust, National Library of Jamaica, National Gallery, Liberty Hall, African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, Office of the Children's Registry, Child Development Agency, National Youth Service, Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), Youth Development Programme and National Centre for Youth Development.

Sadly, the minister, Lisa Hanna, reports that the four latest audited statements submitted to Parliament are all historic documents:

Institute of Jamaica - Chairman Burchell Whiteman: Last accounts, 2004/05;

JCDC - Chairman Christopher Samuda: Last accounts, 2008/09;

National Library - Chairman Carlton Davies: Last accounts, 2009/10;

CPTC - Chairman Christopher Samuda and CEO Chantal Hylton-Tonnes: Last accounts 2010/11.

We wonder what Minister Hanna and her permanent secretary, along with the chairmen, board members and the CEOs of these organisations, are doing to get their accounts up to date?

Why does Minister Hanna and her permanent secretary, rather than appear uninterested in accountability, not instruct these organisations to provide, to the public, current in-house accounts, along with a statement on respective websites, as to when current audits will be completed?

This column will continue to emphasise the importance of transparency and accountability and will continue to name persons allowing public entities under their control to fail the main elementary disclosure requirements.

Ferguson's ministry helpful but tardy

The Ministry of Health, headed by Dr Fenton Ferguson, has an unenviable job of ensuring accounting discipline among 24 hospitals and regional authorities, plus innumerable agencies.

The ministry does not appear, however, to be getting the support from the boards and management of the massive organisations that fall under its portfolio.

Still, the ministry has made a real effort to supply information. Here are some examples of the dates of latest accounts:

National Council on Drug Abuse - Chairman Dr Wendel Abel and Executive Director Michael Tucker: Last accounts, 2004/05;

Registrar General's Department: Last accounts, 2007/08;

Western Regional Health Authority - Chairman George Duncan and Regional Director Dr Ken Douglas: Last accounts, 2008/09;

South Eastern Regional Health Authority - Chairman Dr Andrei Cooke and Regional Director Mark Martin: Last accounts, 2008/09;

North Eastern Regional Health Authority - Chairman Leon Gordon and Regional Director Fabia Lamm: Last accounts, 2009/10.

What is more difficult to understand is that the Ministry of Health has "no record of the annual report tabled" for the University Hospital of the West Indies - Chairman Ryland Campbell and CEO Dr Cecil White.

This is surprising in view of the hospital having submitted, helpfully, its accounts audited by DGS, for the period ending 2013.

One wonders why the minister does not appear aware of these accounts?

If the tardiness in providing audited accounts within the subsidiary units of the ministry are indicative of the discipline and efficiency practised, no wonder the country has health problems.

NLA five years late

The March 2006 National Land Agency (NLA) accounts, audited by the Auditor General, appear to have completed its audit on November 15, 2011 - five years late.

Was this a delay from the NLA or the Auditor General? We will be asking the Auditor General if she has a backlog of accounts awaiting audit.

NLA accounts show a reduced 2006 profit of $44 million (2005: $70 million).

NLA has been tardy in paying back to Government the designated portion of its profits and, at the end of 2006, owed the Government almost $80 million.

Additionally, NLA was holding $125 million, arising from the sale, rental or lease of government-owned property, indicating that the activity of "sale of accomadation resident" - spelling copied from accounts.

Surely, NLA and the Auditor General have spell checkers?

This column reviews audited, in-house accounts and reports of companies and entities owned or influenced by Government.

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