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Auditor general remains firm despite criticism from HAJ board

Published:Thursday | November 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Chairman of the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) Derrick Latibeaudiere says he is "appalled that the blame for poor governance and poor out-turn of selected projects" at the housing body, based on findings by the Auditor General's Department, is being attributed to the current board of directors.

Latibeaudiere said yesterday that Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis' assertion that the current board had not taken the opportunity to follow good governance practices created the wrong impression.

He described the auditor general's comments on the current board as "unfair and misleading".

However, Monroe Ellis told The Gleaner yesterday that her "position remains the same on the HAJ".

Monroe Ellis said that while her team conducted the activity-based audit at the HAJ, officials at the agency blamed the previous board for the fallout in the Jamaica Economical Housing Project (JEHP), in which value for money was not received for the spending of $8.6 billion.




However, Monroe Ellis said she had made it clear to the current board and management of the HAJ that her audit team would not be taking sides on the issue but had a duty to conduct the audit based on information presented to her department.

She was at pains to point out that the current board inherited the JEHP programme, which means that its members did not have an input in the contract agreement and deliverables.

On the question of poor governance, the auditor general said the current board had the opportunity to improve the governance practice at the agency.

However, she said a major decision was made by the current board to divert $49 million earmarked for JEHP to the Hills of Boscobel and Whitehall Three housing developments before getting approval from Cabinet.

Latibeaudiere argued that there was evidence that the current board had employed good governance practices.

He said since its appointment on March 17, 2014, the board took a decision to focus on stabilising the finances of the agency and to complete selected projects within its financial resource capability, given the state of affairs of the HAJ at the time.

The HAJ chairman said that, since 2014, liabilities such as trade and other payables have been reduced from $1.2 billion to $829 million; debt to contractors has been reduced from more than $351 million to $236 million; and payment of all statutory obligations have been made on time.