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Shameful! - Ministry of Labour and Social Security pays out more than $200m in unapproved travel allowances

Published:Saturday | March 11, 2017 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson (right) responding to questions at a recent meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament while Colette Roberts Risden, the permanent secretary in the ministry, looks on.

The Auditor general has recommended that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) move to recover more than $200 million it paid in travel allowance to staff without approval.

In a special report tabled in Parliament last Thursday, the auditor general noted that the ministry was overly generous with travel allowances to some 60 per cent of the employees it paid, and even made toll payments to an employee without getting the green light to do so from the finance ministry.

Recover the money

The auditor general has recommended that the ministry seeks to recover the money from the employees, and if that fails, the senior officers who approved the payments should be forced to return the money.

"The MLSS did not obtain the requisite approval from the Ministry of Finance and Public Service to pay travelling allowance to 367 (60 per cent) of the 609 officers in receipt of allowance," read the report.

"Nonetheless, MLSS paid travelling allowances to these employees, resulting in unauthorised payments totalling $203.1 million for the 2015-2016 financial year.

"Our review also found that three employees were paid travelling allowances contrary to their letters of employment or contracts, resulting in overpayment of $5.4 million from January 2009 to May 2016," the report continued.

One staff member was paid travel allowance on a vehicle that had been transferred from him, resulting in $48,244.81 being paid to him between December 2015 and January 2016.

Another staff member was paid $2.3 million in mileage and toll charges to attend work between June 2014 and January 2016, contrary to the Staff Orders of the Public Service.