Millions of dollars spent without evidence of contractual agreements and unaccounted vouchers were just two of the oversteps revealed within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs when it appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on Monday.
On what was its third appearance before the PAC over the last month, the Ministry came under heavy criticism for a series of breaches of several financial regulations.
Two previous appearances had to be deferred because of an inability to provide answers to questions, but Monday’s session proved no different and resulted in the Committee expressing grave concerns.
The team from the Ministry, headed by Permanent Secretary Alfred King, had to be excused again from the meeting on Monday when several questions posed by Committee members could not be answered.
PAC Chair Irfaan Ali told the Permanent Secretary that there were “serious systemic issues” within the Ministry but excused him for the breaches since he was appointed to the post after the period  under consideration.
The bulk of the reproach which came from both government and opposition Parliamentarians had to be shouldered by Deputy Permanent Secretary, Samantha Fedee.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary was also found to be misleading the PAC when she informed the Committee that John Deere tractors and trailers for Amerindian villages were collected from the supplier in 2016 and stored at the dorms. But that was disputed by the Dorms Manager who claimed that in December there was no equipment stored at the location.
The revelation raised eyebrows and expressions of disappointment from the Chair.
PS King also joined Ali and expressed disappointment with the inconsistency of information being provided to the PAC which was further compounded when it was revealed that the equipment was bought without a written contract.
No proper was provided for this breach.
“The Ministry came before the PAC before and was sent back for the same type of responses, we are not going to tolerate this for long,” Ali said at one point in the session.
When the situation persisted, Minister Volda Lawrence asked that the team be excused so that they could consult and return to provide the Committee with answers to questions.
The PAC also heard that the sum of $10 million was budgeted during 2015 for Amerindian Development but during the time of the preparation of the 2015 report, amounts totaling 270.8 million was expended.
Payment vouchers totaling $204.2 million were presented, leaving expenditure totaling $66.5 million still to be verified.
A letter was sent to the Ministry last week and an additional 48 vouchers were found but a total of $14 million was still unaccounted for. (by Kurt Campbell)