By Alexis R. Milan
The Auditor General’s latest report for the fiscal period 2011-2012 has raised concerns over issues that continue to be a problem in the government’s management of public finances, including suspected instances of fraud and inadequate records management.
According to the report, other issues that plague GOB include misuse of government vehicles, deficient inventory management of assets, the lack of pertinent information in data systems and unreconciled bank accounts – to name a few.
The report noted, in one instance, that at the Sub-Treasury in Dangriga, two cashiers were suspected of a fraudulent scheme, resulting in the government losing $17,031. The audit revealed that 93 receipts were verified as fraudulently reversed by the cashiers. In one instance, one of the cashiers apparently forged the signature of the other.
The General Sales Tax Office was also the subject of fraud. The audit claims that a second-class clerk was suspected of dipping into the coffers, to the tune of $2,313.46. The auditors said they were alerted to four separate instances of financial irregularities.
The clerk apparently manipulated the receipts and submitted them to the Treasury with different figures, compared to those on the original receipts. Weak internal controls at the GST office provides such opportunities for fraud, the report noted.
Abuse of government vehicles is also a recurring problem. According to the report, logbooks were not properly maintained, odometers were not working and the purpose for journeys were often omitted or unauthorized.
In its audit of the Ministry of Labour, Local Government, Rural Development & Sanitation, the auditors noted five private vehicles receiving fuel on a regular basis.
The Auditor General, Dorothy Bradley also mentioned other areas of concern that her office has consistently chided and advocated changes for. The report states the Office of the Auditor General is not permitted enough time to perform a proper audit after receiving the records from the Accountant General.
The Auditor General again emphasized the need for her office to be independent. According to Bradley, her office can only be objective and effective if it is independent of the audited entities and is protected against outside influence.