STU audit yet to start after 15 months
More than a year after minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries Audley Shaw directed the auditor general to conduct an audit of the Sugar Transformation Unit (STU), work is yet to get under way, and there is no indication as to when it will start.
This information was conveyed to The Gleaner in an email response form director, corporate planning and public education at the Auditor General’s Department, Siran Mitchell Bent.
“The audit has been incorporated in our work plan to be undertaken as soon as resources become available,” was the response. “A request for an audit to be conducted at the STU was submitted by the Hon Minister Audley Shaw on May 30, 2018,” Mitchell Bent further advised.
Shaw gave the assurance to cane farmers last September that an audit would be done, after questions arose over the Cane Expansion Fund, following a presentation on the ‘Overview of the Cane Expansion Fund’s Portfolio’ by accounting officer and credit officer Notally Wilson during a post-crop review seminar hosted by the Sugar Industry Authority.
Their declaration that loan repayments by cane farmers for 2017 had been frozen as a result of a ministerial decision and that only 36 per cent of the outstanding 2018 loan portfolio had been collected triggered a barrage of questions, which, today, remain largely unanswered.
“I have already written formally to the auditor general and to the Public Accountability Inspectorate (PAI) of the Ministry of Finance. That’s an inspectorate that I set up when I was there. So both the PAI and the auditor general have been requested by me, in writing, that I want the Sugar Transformation Unit to be audited. They are the cover, so if they are being audited, then the Cane Expansion Fund will automatically be audited as well,” Shaw boasted.
In June 2016, Samuda, Shaw’s predecessor, in a meeting with Jesús Orus Baguena, then head of cooperation for the EU delegation to Jamaica, to discuss aspects of the STU operations, acknowledged inefficiencies in relation to the allocation of loans under the Cane Expansion Fund. He gave the assurance that recommendations made by auditors following a 2012 management audit were being implemented.
Shaw, who took the reins of the agriculture ministry in March 2018, had signalled his discontent but is yet to share the reasons for his decision to request a forensic audit.