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Auditor General still in PAC bad books?

Published:Tuesday | June 15, 2021 | 7:06 AMA Digital Integration & Marketing production
Accountant Owen McKnight looks on as Pamela Monroe Ellis, the auditor general, engages in discussion with a colleague during Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
Dwight Sibblies, member of Public Accounts Committee, poses questions to Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis during a committee meeting in Parliament on Tuesday. Sibblies came under scrutiny because of conflict-of-interest concerns over his parliamentary role and his public-sector job as chief internal auditor at the University of Technology. The university said on Sunday that Sibblies has been seconded, but has not answered a raft of questions from The Gleaner surrounding his employment.

It seems Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee is not yet done with Auditor General Pamela Munroe Ellis. Just Tuesday last,  member of parliament for St James Central, Heroy Clarke, pressed her, suggesting she ignored nepotism. Munroe Ellis defended herself but is there the suggestion that the attempts at ferreting out improprieties on the part of the AG will continue unabated?

Heroy Clarke presses auditor general on nepotism views

HEROY CLARKE, the member of parliament for St James Central, asked Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis on Tuesday to disclose her views on nepotism during a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to review the appropriations accounts of the department for three years.

The auditor general declared that her reports spoke clearly to her position on acts that were irregular.

In December 2018, the auditor general released a damning report on Petrojam that uncovered “explicit acts of nepotism”. The report stated that the manager of human resources employed her sibling in the position of instrument and electrical technician, although the individual was rejected by the interview panel on May 10, 2017, on the basis of lack of experience and qualification.

The then manager of human resources was Yolande Ramharack.

Clarke later told the committee that there was a document that spoke to the employment of two liaison officers in Canada for the farm work programme.

He alleged that the officers who had been employed were related to the then minister of labour who had responsibility for the programme in 2012.

The PAC member provided a news release to committee Chairman Julian Robinson that contained the allegations of nepotism.

But Monroe Ellis made it clear that “any matter that comes to my attention for which I deem to be irregular, or I have some questions, I am going to report it. If I have not reported it, it’s because I have not seen it.”

The auditor general said she had shared any matter that would have been considered questionable in her report on the Canadian farm work programme, which was provided to Clarke and other members of the committee.

“Mr (Dwight) Sibblies had said three meetings ago that I did not provide reports for some years that I went to the Canadian farm work programme and I provided information to the contrary to say that would have been false. Save and except for 2018-19, all reports were provided,” Monroe Ellis said.

However, Robinson said the matter being raised by Clarke did not arise from a report out of the Auditor General’s Department or any other government entity. He noted that it was a report from a news agency.

Robinson said the committee would have to re-examine the auditor general’s report of 2013-14 on the farm work programme to see if the issue had been raised.

Further, Monroe Ellis said the matter referenced by Clarke would have to be addressed by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, who is the accounting officer in charge of the farm work programme.

“All the matters that I reported on, and I am sure if the member examines the report, he will see for himself – those matters were discussed here already at the Public Accounts Committee,” Monroe Ellis added.

Franklyn Witter, senior committee member, intervened and made a suggestion.

“If the matter came before us before and we were satisfied with the explanation then and response, I see no need for us to go back,” he said.

The matter was then put to rest.

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