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Stanberry intervenes in Agro Invest saga

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has put in place measures to address "the serious managerial weaknesses over the administration of AIC's (Agro-Invest Corporation) agricultural assets identified by the Auditor General's Department in last year's audit of the investment arm of the ministry.

Among the irregularities highlighted by the audit was the withdrawal of a total of $202.5 million by the AIC from two accounts between March 2009 and January 2012 without the proper approval.

However, Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the ministry, said he has personally intervened to prevent any such recurrence.

Responding to a Gleaner story, which spoke to the failure of the board of the AIC to provide adequate oversight during this period, the permanent secretary told The Gleaner that the money had in fact been used to cover legitimate expenditures associated with the day-to-day operations of the company. The money, he sought to clarify, was neither missing nor misspent.

"What happened was that they ran out of money and went into these accounts, which they did not have the authority to do, but the money was used for legitimate housekeeping purposes," Stanberry declared, explaining that he had since put in place measures to ensure that such an irregularity could not happen again.

Agricultural development

Established in July 2009 from the merger of the Agricultural Development Corporation and Agricultural Support Services Productive Products Fund Limited, the function of the AIC is to stimulate, facilitate, and undertake the development of agriculture in Jamaica.

However, the Auditor General's Department indicated that its audit found that there was a general lack of strategy towards fulfilment of this mandate as the corporation did not develop an operational plan to define priorities, outline performance targets, and optimise its revenue.

"We observed no clear and measurable performance indicators for most of the 21 performance objectives highlighted. In addition to reported losses incurred by AIC between 2009 and 2013, the audit identified that the board of directors did not provide adequate oversight during this period," the Auditor General's Department wrote in its report.