Sun | Dec 16, 2018

MOCA steps up probe into wrongful disbursement of funds - FID investigates National Insurance Fund

Published:Wednesday | June 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Senior Staff Reporter
Monroe Ellis

Following revelations of conflict of interest in a programme designed to provide emergency grants to the poorest Jamaicans, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security says it has increased its capacity to identify fraud.

"Since the audit, we have sent our chief internal auditor and another member of the audit team on a special course looking at fraud detection. So we have taken the report really seriously and we are trying to strengthen our internal mechanisms," reported Permanent Secretary Collette Roberts-Risden, who appeared yesterday before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) has been conducting an ongoing investigation into a report from the auditor general that persons employed to the ministry had disbursed millions to relatives and friends triggering concerns of corruption.

The Pamela Monroe Ellis-led Auditor General's Department had reported that an accounting clerk in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security's Rehabilitation Programme Policy (RPP) gifted $1.7 million to her husband, mother, her three sisters,

three brothers and a friend from the fund established to provide emergency grants to the dispossessed.

Roberts-Risden told the PAC that the ministry was well advanced in reviewing "our rehabilitation grants policy and procedures manual for the programme".

"In terms of some of our internal procedures, we have removed the whole matter of hand-written submissions to the accounting department. All the submissions to the accounting department are now typed," she said.

Roberts-Risden said further that the ministry had given clear instructions to the parishes that all requests for assistance must be accompanied with a report.

The Financial Investigations Division is currently conducting a major probe at the National Insurance Fund (NIF) stemming from an auditor general's report that highlighted a conflict of interest into how taxpayers' money is invested in private equity.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, in a special audit of equity purchases by the NIF, unveiled a conflict of interest. The audit uncovered a situation whereby the NIF acquired listed shares, totalling $27 million in two companies, owned by the spouse of a senior officer employed in the Fund's Equity Management Unit.

"However, the requisite approval from the minister with responsibility for finance was not sought for the acquisition of the shares, in breach of the investment policy," Monroe Ellis reported earlier this year.

Following yesterday meeting of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Collette Roberts-Risden, told The Gleaner that the FID was now investigating the matter.

The permanent secretary told PAC members earlier that she could not provide any details, as the issue was the subject of an investigation.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com