By Alexis R. Milan
The Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, in an exclusive interview with The Reporter this week, revealed that apart from her office now being involved with the Treasury Department investigation, she intends to audit PetroCaribe spending after she concludes outstanding reports including the Immigration Audit.
Bradley said her office received a call from Accountant General, Veronica Smith last week, who made a request for her to go in and she has had a team auditing the Treasury Department since then.
Bradley said, based on their findings so far, they are validating certain records with the bank, through the assistance of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
She explained that the audit her office is doing will not determine the guilt of any party involved, but will identify the lapses in the system where the manipulation occurred.
Bradley said that because all the records are electronic, as transactions were all made over the government’s SmartStream system, she expects to have a completed report ready by next week. Her team doesn’t have to sift through manual paper records.
The report, once concluded, like all others, will include recommendations for improved controls and checks and balances, she said, but all findings will be submitted to the courts for analysis to make a final judgment.
Bradley, in response to being asked whether or not she would take up the Prime Minister’s offer to audit PetroCaribe finances, said that auditing those finances is on her priority list, and she has intentions to do so. However, due to certain constraints she cannot say when such an audit may be launched.
According to Bradley, her office has to complete certain audits that have been ongoing for several months, before embarking on new, large scale audits.
Even then, she explained, there would be enormous challenges as her office is under-resourced. She explained that in such an instance a financial audit may be warranted, but conceded that a performance audit would perhaps be the one most people want, to determine how the finances are being managed and if the public is getting value for money.
In the instance of a performance audit, it may even be difficult to verify certain information in determining value for money and the way money is being spent because political supporters are likely to cover for their respective interests.
She added that due to a serious lack of technical resources, her office would most likely not even have the staff required to adequately value projects like infrastructural and social initiatives under the PetroCaribe program.
In other instances though, especially those involving electronic records, it would be easier to access pertinent information she said.
Bradley also noted, that where the PetroCaribe initiative is concerned, the controversy over the program is at its root political by nature and she doesn’t want the work of her office to be lost in it because there are those that may criticize her office for starting another audit without even submitting reports of the other big audits her office has undertaken.
Bradley is aware that one such audit her office has been criticized for not yet producing is the audit of the Immigration Department, in the wake of the Elvin Penner/Won Hong Kim nationality scandal.
According to the Auditor General, that audit has been broken down into three huge reports due to the volume of information they encountered during the audit.
She said there is an individual report for visa, passport and nationality issues and each report is well beyond the preliminary phase.
Due to the sensitive nature of some of the material however, the Department has sought technical assistance from outside counterparts who are still in the process of reviewing and validating the information sent to them. Bradley said she has no control over the time-frame it takes for them to process that information.
She said once that information is validated and returned to her, the reports would be completed and published for public scrutiny. Bradley said once those reports are out, she thinks the public will have an appreciation for the volume of information sourced.