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Controversial 'Black Tank' project lacked transparency

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2013 | 7:43 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Gleaner Writer



The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) has failed to produce evidence to substantiate the actual delivery of tanks and water to beneficiaries under the agency's controversial 'Black Tank' projects.




In a worrying development, Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis reported that the $2.8 million project which was implemented in St Mary and Manchester on the eve of the 2011 general election, lacked transparency.



The project was intended to assist small farmers in both parishes who were unable to access irrigation water.



In a performance audit of the NIC, the Auditor General reported that the Commission procured eleven 1,000 gallon tanks at a cost of $342,507, which were purportedly distributed to farmers in the parishes named.



The report revealed that two cheques for the amounts of $140,805 and $201,702, were made payable to hardware companies in Manchester and St Ann.



The Auditor General noted in her report that the NIC's disbursement register disclosed that both cheques were disbursed on December 23, 2011, however, there was no evidence that the tanks were received by the Commission or delivered to the farmers.



According to Monroe Ellis despite the department's requests, the NIC did not present any evidence to substantiate the actual delivery of tanks and water to the beneficiaries.



The AGD's report stated that the lack of transparency resulted from management's override of the control systems and disregard for established procurement procedures.



Monroe Ellis said since May 2013 the NIC had undertaken an exercise to confirm that the intended beneficiaries have received the tanks.



The NIC's interim report to the Auditor General said that additional follow-up will be done to ascertain the names of the farmers in Manchester as well as their agricultural impact.



It also stated that a further site visit will be planned as additional contacts have been made by the chief internal auditor.



In early January, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Donovan Stanberry told The Sunday Gleaner that he could not provide any information about the whereabouts of the tanks.



In another development, the Auditor General reported that the NIC engaged the services on nine contractors to provide water to unnamed beneficiaries at a cost of $2.4 million.



Asked to comment on the findings of the Auditor General, former agriculture minister Robert Montague said he could not respond until he has read a copy of the report.



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