Thu | Aug 16, 2018

AGD unable to verify 30-y-o opening balances

Published:Thursday | May 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
Monroe Ellis

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis has warned that statements from the Accountant General's Department related to the Consolidated Fund would be qualified if 30-year-old opening balances were not verified.

Monroe Ellis made the disclosure on Tuesday as she addressed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.

A qualified opinion is issued by an auditor if there is insufficient evidence to authenticate financial statements and other accounting discrepancies exist.

"These statements go back to the year 1988. What has happened is that a number of these statements carry year-long balances and in relocations over the years - over the decades - the accountant general was not able to locate these documents to substantiate the opening balances," explained Accountant General Carlene Murdock.

PAC Chairman Mark Golding acknowledged that it would be difficult to authenticate the statements but said that the problem needed to be resolved urgently.

He argued: "It would be a very unsatisfactory situation that we're going to have the accounts of a critical department within the Ministry of Finance, which is the paymaster, the accountant general, having their accounts qualified."

The auditor general commented: "I can't give an opinion on the current year's balances only, but the final balances, ... that's really the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance as to what it will do with those balances."

According to Darlene Morrison, acting financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance, there would be no major implication if the statements were qualified, but she admitted that it would look untidy. The ministry and the auditor general are to discuss the matter and update the PAC within 30 days.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com