Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Auditor general defends report on RADA breaches

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2020 | 12:27 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Pamela Monroe Ellis, Jamaica’s auditor general.
Pamela Monroe Ellis, Jamaica’s auditor general.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis has dismissed suggestions that her department may have muffed the findings of a performance management audit of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which probed breaches of procurement guidelines related to the entity’s Farm Road Rehabilitation Programme (FRRP) between 2014 and 2019.

The Auditor General’s Department (AuGD) carried out investigations into RADA’s FRRP and found that the report, which was tabled in Parliament last year, was less than clear. At Tuesday’s sitting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), RADA executives could not sufficiently answer questions raised in the auditor general’s report on the matter.

RADA CEO Peter Thompson said during the PAC meeting that the contracts for road rehabilitation were tendered at a single value, but returned higher, from which the lowest bid was selected to execute the project.

The auditor general’s report pointed out that RADA used the local competitive bidding methodology for just four of the 112 road rehabilitation contracts, valued at $1.6 billion.

Monroe Ellis said that the agricultural agency was unable to indicate what basis was used to offer contractors invitations to bid on the road-rehabilitation contracts, highlighting six times where RADA used what is termed the limited tender methodology for awards valued at $129.8 million.

Her comment triggered a series of arguments and counter-arguments from committee members, none more vocal than government member Everald Warmington’s, who declared that that was how contracting of works had always been done.

Firing back, Monroe Ellis said that she had been otherwise advised by the RADA CEO and that the findings remained that the breaches occurred.

“I know the heads of agencies oftentimes can provide an explanation, which may appear reasonable, but it is my responsibility to point out where there are breaches, and even where I may think it’s reasonable, I cannot take it on myself to accept it because then I become complicit, and I will be called on to provide an explanation alongside the perpetrators of the act,” Monroe Ellis said.

The AuGD reported that it found that RADA had utilised the direct procurement and emergency methodologies for 33 contracts with a value of $520.93 million even though the allowable threshold under the rules of the emergency procurement methodologies was not met.

Further, the committee was told that the evaluation report for the 12 contracts revealed no evidence that RADA assessed the bidders to direct their decision on whether the minimum qualifying criteria were met per the Bidders and Procurement Guidelines.