Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Auditor general deals with our queries

Published:Wednesday | December 31, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Aston Cooke
Auditor General Pamela Monroe-Ellis
Christopher Samuda - FILE PHOTOS
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A.C. Countz, Gleaner Columnist

The Auditor general, Pamela Monroe Ellis, has been upset with this column reporting that she did not comply on a timely basis with our request under the Access to Information Act. There were extenuating circumstances. Our request was delivered to her previous office address and was not seen by her.

We are impressed with the AG's concern about our non-compliance accusation and withdraw it.

Her next annual report is due to be tabled in Parliament later this month. We hope she will send us a review copy.

She has explained that there are a few accounts "awaiting audit" in her office, including the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, the Council of Community Colleges and the tardiest from the National Council on Drug Abuse (accounts for 2007-8 not yet certified). Where are all the other overdue accounts?

The status of the NCDA is disgraceful. During the no-accounts period Dr Earl Wright was chairman (2008-2011), and Dr Wendel Abel (2012-2015). Perhaps these capable gentlemen can explain the lack of respect for accountability of the organisation they head(ed)?

There's life in the financial secretary but alarming ineptitude on boards of the CPTC, JCDC and IOJ (and the National Council on Drug Abuse)

The financial secretary, Mr Devon Rowe, has sent us a copy of his October 10, 2014 letter, sent to many ministries, pointing out that annual accounts are due within four months of the Government's financial year ( i.e. by August end) and that responsible ministers are required to table these in Parliament. No timeframe is given to ministers for tabling. Nor does the FS confirm that accounts, including monthly accounts, can and should be made public long before they are tabled in Parliament.

We commend, however, the FS for showing such positive interest in the disastrous state of accounting among publicly owned entities. Let's hope this spurt of concern will continue and be effective. The FS has set a date of December 2015 for all accounts in the public sector to be up to date. December 2015 seems a long way away.

The financial secretary points out that accounting officers, et al, should "take appropriate disciplinary proceedings against officers responsible for the delay in the timely submission of financial statements".

He goes on: "The financial secretary shall report to the minister any accounting officer ... whose financial statements are consistently late in submission and are in arrears".

The FS sent us copies of his letters to the Creative Production and Training Centre (accounts outstanding since 2011-12), the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (accounts outstanding since 2009-10) and the Institute of Jamaica (accounts outstanding since 2006-7). Presumably, these were sent as examples of delinquent entities.

The FS did not state whether the relevant accounting officers had been reported to the minister for sanction.

CPTC's current board with responsibility for accountability - Christopher L. Samuda, chairman; Ms. Tanya Davies; Dr Nova Gordon Bell; Ms Dahlia Harris; Dr Leopaul Powell; Mr Randolph Jones; Dr Denton Rhone; Ms Thelma Johill; Mrs Joanne Wood Rattray; Ms Gynelle Findlay; Mr Mark Gonzales; Mr Ian McNaughton.

JCDC's current board with responsibility for accountability - Mr Aston Cooke, interim chairman; Mr Christopher Samuda, deputy chairman; Mr Jordon Wong; Mr Junior Rose, Miss Audrey Johnson; Miss Cindy Breakspeare; Mr Dillon Powe, Mr Vaughn Goodison, OD, JP; Mr Weston Haughton; Reverend Astor Carlyle; Mr Khary Robinson; Mr Clyde McKenzie; Mr Caswell Harvey; Miss Thelma Johill; Miss Pamela Redwood; Mr Michael Harris; Dr Brian Heap; Ms Delrose Campbell; Mr Peter Young.

The IOJ has responsibility for the following organisations: The African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB), Liberty Hall: Legacy of Marcus Garvey - a project of the ACIJ/JMB, The Jamaica Music Museum, The Junior Centres (programmes coordination), the Natural History Museum of Jamaica, the Museums of History and Ethnography, the National Gallery of Jamaica. The IOJ publishes Jamaica Journal, originally the Journal of the Institute of Jamaica, established in 1896.

IOJ current board with responsibility for accountability. We had difficulty finding the names of the IOJ board members on the IOJ website. This might be due to our giving up in frustration. Head of Agency: Ms Anne- Marie Bonner.

How can this illustrious institution fail to bring out accounts for seven years?

Highly qualified persons such as Christopher Samuda or Aston Cooke or Khary Robinson or Wendell Abel (to choose some names at random) need to take more interest in getting their organisations up to date with accounts. Why do these gentlemen not have their organisations explain to the public the reasons for the now inexplicable delays in accounting for the use of public funds?

If Aston Cooke wrote a hilarious comedy for Oliver Samuels and brought ridicule on non-performing accounting officers, maybe things would change.

Now that we have found the FS alive and well, we will be writing to him to determine who and when and with what result he has reported delinquent accounting officers to the minister.

We also encourage him to direct government entities and ministers to make accounts available as soon as prepared. It cannot be correct for, as an example, the IOJ - that is responsible for so many subsidiary entities - to be unaccountable for its public finances from 2007.

But it is not just the responsibility of the FS to correct all the sins of the past. Why do the accounting officers responsible for these entities not perform? Why do the relevant permanent secretaries and ministers not clean up the mess? Why are those responsible who are delinquent not fired? More anon.

This column is based on the audited and in-house accounts and reports of companies and entities owned or influenced by Government. CEOs of such entities are invited to send copies of their latest accounts and annual reports to The Gleaner Library. Information about shareholdings and directors will be drawn from the website of the Registrar of Companies. Every effort will be made to publish short and pertinent responses to issues raised sent to editor@gleanerjm.com