Cop car chaos - Audit reveals wide-scale lack of accountability in repair of police vehicles

Published: Wednesday | November 28, 2012 Comments 0
Pamela Monroe Ellis
Pamela Monroe Ellis
These cars are just a few of the many dlilapidated ones that can be found at The Police Transport and Repairs unit. - Dwayne McLeod
These cars are just a few of the many dlilapidated ones that can be found at The Police Transport and Repairs unit. - Dwayne McLeod
These cars are just a few of the many dlilapidated ones that can be found at The Police Transport and Repairs unit. - Dwayne McLeod
These cars are just a few of the many dlilapidated ones that can be found at The Police Transport and Repairs unit. - Dwayne McLeod
These cars are just a few of the many dlilapidated ones that can be found at The Police Transport and Repairs unit. - Dwayne McLeod
These cars are just a few of the many dlilapidated ones that can be found at The Police Transport and Repairs unit. - Dwayne McLeod

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

STARTLING REVELATIONS have been uncovered in an audit of police motor vehicles for the period 2007 to 2011 by the Auditor General's Department (AGD), with gaping holes and a severe lack of accountability in how repairs have been effected on the force's fleet.

This was reported in an audit of the management of police motor vehicles which was tabled yesterday in Parliament.

A finding documented in the audit says the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) incurred costs to repair vehicles reported to have been disposed of.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis said her department found that during 2010, the force paid a 'job worker' nearly $1 million to repair 13 vehicles.

"However, seven of these vehicles, which were purportedly repaired at a cost of $527,800, were reported as being disposed of for periods ranging from five to 15 months prior to the dates of repair. The disposal document presented indicated that six of these vehicles were scrapped and one damaged," the report stated.

The AGD said the JCF was unable to provide documents to indicate that these vehicles were returned to the active fleet.

However, scrutiny of the job cards revealed that repairs undertaken to these vehicles involved repairs to engine, wheel bearings, crankshaft, connecting rods, CV joints and brakes.

In what appears to be an impossible task of piecing together the proverbial puzzle, the AGD noted that the job cards prepared at the garage's checkpoint indicated that these vehicles entered the premises. In two instances, the vehicles were received at the checkpoint by the same officer who certified that the vehicles were repaired satisfactorily and approved the invoices for payment.

The microscopic lens of the AGD also placed the spotlight on the same unnamed job worker, who was paid $400,100 to undertake repairs on six vehicles that were subsequently disposed of within two to 12 months of their repair dates.

BENEFIT QUESTIONED

"In all these instances, the job completion card and invoices were approved by senior officers stationed at the garage. The lack of segregation of duties and poor documentation cast doubt on whether JCF benefited from the costs incurred to effect repairs to these vehicles," the AGD contended.

The Monroe Ellis-led AGD also reported that the force engaged the services of 68 job workers to undertake repairs and servicing of its motor vehicles between April 2009 and December 2010, for amounts totalling $262.8 million.

The AGD was told by JCF personnel that the workers only provided labour as they were stationed at garages belonging to the force and used its facilities and equipment to carry out repairs.

Formal agreements presented to the AGD did not set out the terms and conditions of their engagement.

"We were, therefore, unable to determine whether the amounts paid and the jobs performed were in keeping with what was agreed," the oversight body stated.

Despite a request from the auditor general, the JCF was unable to provide the basis used to determine the rates paid for jobs undertaken by the workers and the criteria used to engage their services.

In a letter dated April 26, 2012, the JCF requested an investigation into certain anomalies with bills submitted by a contractor for repairs purportedly effected to its vehicles.

EXCESSIVE COSTS

The letter stated that bills submitted by this contractor on a fortnightly basis have always been considered material/excessive, averaging $600,000 to $800,000.

According to the auditor general, the JCF compared prices of jobs by this contractor with the prices of established garages and found that the contractor's prices were significantly higher than market prices.

The AGD also divulged that a copy of an email indicated that the main discrepancy with bills submitted for payment was that police divisions, when contacted to verify jobs purportedly done on vehicles assigned to their division, had no knowledge of the work.

"In one case, a bill was submitted in respect of a vehicle which had been left at an external garage for years until it had started to rot."

The Ministry of National Security reported that an "investigation has been launched into the practices exhibited by past mechanics of charging at higher-than-market rates as well as work purportedly done by contractors which could not be certified by the divisions".

The ministry said a report would be provided by January 31, 2013.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com

Some of the AGD's recommendations:

Problem identified - JCF is uncertain of the size of its motor vehicle fleet.

1. JCF needs to immediately conduct a comprehensive review of all the vehicles that currently exist. It should ensure that the inventory records are consistent with the information on the related motor vehicle title and correctly reflect the status of all its vehicles.

Serious internal control weaknesses identified at JCF's spare-parts stores.

2. JCF needs to urgently undertake a review of its repair and maintenance activities at all its garages with a view to strengthening the current oversight mechanism.

3. JCF needs to ensure that there is adequate segregation of the duties over the ordering, receivable, and maintenance of the inventory record of its spare parts at all its garages islandwide. This will mitigate against possible waste and misappropriation of resources.

JCF is unable to account for spare parts reportedly transferred to other vehicles.

4. The JCF should immediately ensure that prior authorisation is obtained from a senior officer, designated by the Commissioner of Police, for the transfer of parts from a vehicle to another or to be stored for future use.

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