Tue | Jan 15, 2019

No approval for millions spent tackling Chik-V, Ebola

Published:Thursday | January 10, 2019 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis

The Ministry of Health did not obtain approval for five contracts, valued at $17.9 million, that were awarded under a multimillion-dollar technical cooperation between Jamaica and a leading multilateral organisation to bolster the country's response to the outbreak of the chikungunya virus (chik-V) and the threat of the Ebola virus, the Auditor General's Department (AGD) has revealed.

The AGD, in its latest annual report, which was tabled in Parliament yesterday, raised concerns that the spend runs contrary to Government of Jamaica guidelines and the grant agreement the Government signed in 2014 with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Further, the AGD said that it saw no evidence that the hiring of the five consultants had been subjected to the scrutiny of the ministry's procurement committee.

"This practice undermines the transparency objective of the GoJ's procurement guidelines and the grant agreement as detailed scrutiny of the procurement process and documentary evidence of deliberations would not have been achieved," the agency said in the report.

In December 2014, the then Government signed a non-reimbursable technical cooperation with the IDB to provide financial aid of up to US$250,000, or approximately J$68 million (2014 exchange rate), for "institutional strengthening".

 

GUIDELINES NOT STRICTLY ADHERED TO

 

According to the AGD, the funds were aimed at strengthening Jamaica's response to the outbreak of the chikungunya virus and to prepare for the possible impact of the Ebola virus.

Jamaica was facing the chik-V health crisis and an Ebola threat during the People's National Party's 2011 to 2016 administration.

"The audit of the financial statements and transactions of the project revealed the following: The GoJ's procurement guidelines were not strictly adhered to in the procurement of consultancy services," the AGD said of the five contracts.

"We saw no evidence that the procurement of services for five consultants valued at $17.94 million was subjected to the scrutiny of the procurement committee. Furthermore, contrary to the grant agreement and GoJ procurement guidelines, the Ministry of Health did not obtain the requisite approval of the accounting officer for awarding these contracts."

The AGD also revealed that the health ministry did not obtain a valid Tax Compliance Certificate from three of the five consultants who were awarded contracts valued at a total of $9 million.

In addition, it said that the health ministry did not retain and remit the three per cent withholding tax, amounting to $271,107, to Tax Administration Jamaica.

However, the agency said that since the revelation, the ministry had indicated that measures would be implemented to prevent a recurrence.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com