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NWC rubbishes damning internal audit

Published:Sunday | May 8, 2016 | 5:00 AMAndre Poyser
NWC president Mark Barnett who received a copy of the internal audit.

The management of the National Water Commission (NWC) is downplaying the findings of an internal audit, which raised questions about the implementation of its New Meter Reading System (NMRS).

According to the company, "The project has ... been completed on time, to NWC specifications, within cost and is now benefiting thousands of NWC customers in the various areas of work."

The NWC was responding to Sunday Gleaner queries after our news team received a copy of the audit which was done by its internal audit team.

The audit team reported that its examination, which was completed in January, found five reportable deficiencies, which were all classified as "high risk".

The audit team said high-risk items are ones "which can seriously compromise the system of internal control, and could result in significant adverse impact on NWC's operation and reputation and should, therefore, be addressed immediately".

Among the worrying findings of the audit team was that a contract for provisional sums used to purchase software for the NMRS under the Jamaica Water Supply Improvement Project (JWSIP) Category B project was in breach of the Government's procurement guidelines.

According to the audit team, the JWSIP Category B project, which is being implemented by Vinci Construction Grands Projects, provides only for the acquisition of Automated Meter Reading (AMR) ready meters and not any related software.

This was rejected by the management of the NWC, which said the provision of the new meter-reading software was undertaken under one component of the JWSIP and does not represent a contract.

NO NEGATIVE IMPACT

"Furthermore, given that the new meter-reading software provision may be regarded as an amendment with no negative impact on the overall project cost, Government of Jamaica procurement and contracting guidelines also clearly give to the head of the procuring entity the full authority to authorise actions of this kind," said the NWC.

The NWC's internal audit team said in its report that it was repeatedly advised by senior members of the project team that the NMRS was not a separate project but is part of the JWSIP, which was already approved by Cabinet with National Contracts Commission (NCC) endorsement.

The internal audit team rejected that reasoning and argued that the contract signed for the provision of the meter-reading software does not satisfy the requirements of the Public Sector Procurement Procedures.

Concerns about the lack of competitive bidding on the outsourcing of the development of meter-reading software raised by the internal audit team were also dismissed by the company's management.

Another audit finding which was rebuffed by the management of the NWC had to do with the claim that Vinci Construction Grands Projects and Australia-based company Hansen Technologies were engaged before the opening date for the bids for the project.

According to the NWC management, "This bid opening date of March 12, 2015 (did) not apply to the provision of new meter-reading solution under the Jamaica Water Supply Improvement Project. ... Vinci was duly engaged for the JWSIP after NCC endorsement and Cabinet approval were received in June 2009. Furthermore, the NWC has not engaged Hansen in this instance, the engagement is with Vinci."