NSWMA forensic audit could cost millions
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie yesterday called for an immediate forensic audit of the problem-plagued National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), an exercise that an experienced accountant said could cost the Government millions of dollars and which could extend over several months.
Dennis Chung, who is to return as chairman of the NSWMA, told The Gleaner yesterday that the forensic audit could amount to more than $10 million if it covers a 10-year period.
"If you are looking at over the past 10 years, particularly with accounting records that have been missing because they were destroyed in the fire, you are going to be looking at something that takes a while - and it's not just one or two months," Chung said.
The fire mentioned by Chung destroyed records at the NSWMA in 2011.
The incident occurred after gunmen entered the premises, tied up a security guard, and set fire to files at the agency.
Yesterday, McKenzie said he gave instructions for the forensic audit to be done in light of concerns he has arising from a meeting at the agency when he assumed duties as minister.
McKenzie's instructions for the audit to be conducted coincides with a similar call from Arlene Harrison Henry, the public defender, who completed an investigation into the March 2015 fire at the Riverton City disposal site, which seriously affected residents in the Corporate Area and St Catherine and which led to the closure of schools and many businesses.
NO AUDITED STATEMENTS
Harrison Henry, in her report, stated that under Steve Ashley's watch as then chairman of the NSWMA from December 2011 to April 2015, there were no audited statements for the authority.
"This was despite his request for same from the E.D. (executive director). The last audited financial statements for MPM (Metropolitan Parks and Markets) and WPM (Western Parks and Markets) was 2007. The then chairman accepted that the audited financial statements were 'not clean', or expressed another way, were qualified."
In a media release yesterday, McKenzie said the findings of the forensic audit he commissioned would provide the basis for a more comprehensive and systematic response to the management and operational issues confronting the NSWMA.
However, he said the public defender's report may, in the interim, serve to identify low-hanging fruits where immediate corrective measures could be pursued.
McKenzie said he would be mandating a team from his ministry to review Harrison Henry's report with a view to identifying areas where immediate corrective measures could be implemented.
In her findings, Harrison Henry pointed out that the NSWMA had failed to fulfil its legal duty to safeguard the public health of Jamaicans.
She added that from inception to 2014, the agency operated and managed the Riverton disposal facility without an environmental permit, contrary to the provisions of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act.