Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Public entities breach policy by having shares in name of officers

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Miller/Gleaner Writer
Monroe Ellis

Multiple accounting officers in the public sector have failed to comply with a Cabinet instruction in 2015 that required the immediate transference to the accountant general of share certificates owned by government companies, but were issued in the names of public officials. The longstanding issue was discussed during the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday.

"We noted that 128 ordinary shares valued at $17,413 and 25 million preference shares issued at no par value were not in the name of the accountant general in keeping with the Financial Administration and Audit Act, Crown Property (Vesting) Act 1960 and Cabinet instruction," reported Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis.

Prior to 2004, directors and chief executive officers held shares with the accountant general, as single-member companies were not permitted.

Accountant General Carlene Murdock responded: "...The records will show that we have been using our best efforts to get all the MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies), all government bodies out there, in which the GOJ has shareholdings, that the shares are [to be] titled in the name of the accountant general. As you have said, Chairman, the process is slow and tedious."

She added, "We have on file, where we would have written one entity 12, 13, 14 times, and the responses are just not coming."

'fire their backside'

Mikael Phillips, PAC member, called for the sanctioning of uncooperative public officials. He commented: "I don't think that we need to wait until public-sector transformation; it is just information that is requested by the accountant general for an activity that is to be done. If individuals within ministries, departments or agencies are not responding - if it was my private entity - I would've fired their backside long time."

The auditor general urged the accountant general not to disregard responses from entities that have not provided physical evidence.

"Many of those entities do have financial statements [or] they may be dated, but that does not affect the shares, because they would have recognised [them]", Monroe Ellis advised. "So, acknowledge that the shares exist and do further investigations to find out the basis on which they are disclosing that they hold these shares."