Sat | Feb 29, 2020

Nothing I can do that OCG can’t – Monroe Ellis - Says she can’t add value to Rooms sale report

Published:Thursday | May 9, 2019 | 12:15 AMEdmond Campbell/News Coordinator
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis

The Auditor General’s Department will not be conducting a review of the report of the former Office of the Contractor General (OCG) into the controversial sale of Rooms on the Beach hotel by the Government and beach lands by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to Puerto Caribe Properties Limited.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis says that she could not add any value to that process but noted that her department had already been conducting a wider probe of the UDC divestment process from as early as October 2017. The audit was interrupted last year as the auditor general had to redeploy resources to deal with the Petrojam audit.

The performance audit will determine the extent to which the UDC has implemented the recommendations of a previous audit in 2012 and will examine how effectively the agency has managed its assets to ensure sustainable national development and the economic viability of the corporation.

The Integrity Commission sent the report of the former contractor general, Dirk Harrison, to Parliament for tabling last week. Harrison, among other things, asked the Auditor General’s Department to review the report and determine how to proceed with it.

Monroe Ellis told The Gleaner that referrals from former contractors general to her department had never been acted on.

“I am not able to state the basis on which the contractor general will find it necessary to refer a report to the Auditor General’s Department primarily from the backdrop that there is nothing that the auditor general can do that the contractor general cannot do,” she asserted.

“If we look at it as well and consider the rationale for doing so, the (former) contractor general can actually take the matter further than the auditor general. So the auditor general, at the conclusion of a report, though submitting that report to the Parliament, cannot refer that report to any law-enforcement agency, but the contractor general can do that,” she reasoned.

Further, Monroe Ellis pointed out that the Financial Administration and Audit Act (FAA) restricts what the auditor general can do in terms of reporting to a permanent secretary. The FAA Act stipulates that the auditor general should refer any matters of irregularity to the permanent secretary, who will then send it to the law enforcement agency for investigation.

In a report tabled in Parliament last week on the sale of the Rooms on the Beach hotel by the Government and beach lands by the UDC in April 2017, the OCG said that the lands were sold below market price and that the Government did not optimise income from the divestment process.