Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Millions down the drain in Hay project

Published:Monday | May 22, 2017 | 5:00 AMLivern Barrett

The financial mismanage-ment and lax oversight uncovered in the Government's $20-million hay production project resulted in lost revenues totalling millions of dollars, a damning audit report has found.

The Hay Commercialisation Project designed and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2014 devoted a total of 12 hectares of lands, located at the Bodles Research Station in St Catherine and the Hounslow Training Centre in St Elizabeth, to the production of hay to help save the local dairy industry.

According to the audit report, the project was designed to be self-sustaining and was forecast to earn approximately $11.5 million and

$6 million, respectively, from the sale of hay at Hounslow and Bodles between April 2014 and June last year.

However, while acknowledging that the lands devoted to the project had increased to 14 hectares, the auditors found that between April 2014 and June 2016, "only an amount of $257,250 was sold for hay at Bodles and zero dollars for Hounslow",

"In reference to the proposed revenue that was forecast, the project revenue is at a deficit of -$17,492,750," the auditors wrote.

At Bodles, they reported that no records were being maintained for the production of hay between April 2014 and December 2015. For the first six months of 2016, the audit found that 1,329 bales of hay were produced at both facilities, compared to a projected 54,000 bales.

"No commercial hays were produced for Hounslow, as all the hays produced were used to feed the animals," the auditors wrote.

The findings triggered a dire assessment of the project, which has spanned three agriculture ministers.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com