The Auditor General’s report on Trinidad and Tobago’s public accounts for Government’s financial year 2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) has revealed that Government ministries paid millions of dollars in overpayments to contract employees.
There was a lack of documentation to verify million-dollar expenditures at certain Government ministries.
There was also failure in many instances to respond to requests for more expenditure information despite ballooning budgets, the Auditor General’s report showed.
Dated April 29, 2013, the report was signed by Auditor General Sharman Ottley and was submitted to Speaker of the House Wade Mark that day.
Ottley noted that the examination of records and documents showed that in many instances there was non-compliance with financial instructions, financial regulations and other financial directives while reports on appropriation accounts were not received from 13 accounting officers by the Auditor’s General Office up to January 31, 2013.
And up to April 15 this year, ahead of the report’s submission to Parliament, there were no responses from 19 permanent secretaries or heads of departments.
The Auditor General took issue with:
1. The lack of inventory controls at the various ministries.
2. Signed lease agreements were not produced for several properties for which rental payments were made—three locations at the Ministry of National Security for a total monthly rental of $1.2 million; one location from the Ministry of the Attorney General for a monthly rental of $486,774.60; five locations for the Ministry of Food Production for a total monthly rental of $606,473.74; and two locations for the Ministry of Tobago Development at a total monthly rental of $92,000 a month.
3. Signed contracts were not provided for a number of contracts paid.
Eight contracts at the Ministry of National Security amounting to $5.9 million were not seen; 17 contracts at the Ministry of Education amounting to $4 million were not seen; four contracts at the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure valued at $6.8 million were not seen; as well as five contracts at the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service which amounted to $2.3 million.
“Replies were received from 26 permanent secretaries/heads of departments indicating that amounts totaling $224.4 million were paid to 2,239 persons employed in contract positions during the financial year ended 30th September, 2012. The audit highlighted that duly-executed contracts were not produced for several of these officers and as such the various terms of engagement could not be verified,” the report noted.
4. Overpayments. In the 2011 appropriation accounts, 5,280 cases of overpayment totaling $20,370,970.62 were reported, of which $8,472,896.04 was recovered. In 2012, 4,531 cases of overpayment totaling $21,465,110.05 were reported of which $8,008,976.50 was recovered.
5. Outstanding commitments—Several ministries made expensive commitments for goods and services but have not paid (up to time to audit). Among them are the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs.
6. Cases of theft and reported losses—For the financial year 2012, there were 45 cases of theft and losses of State property totaling $682,966.88.
This figure comprised 24 cases under $5,000 totalling $58,463 and 26 cases totaling $641,142.
There were five cases in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, 18 cases in the Ministry of Education, seven cases in the Tobago House of Assembly and six cases in the Ministry of Food Production.
7. Errors/omissions from appropriation accounts—the Auditor General noted that in several ministries as well as the Office of the President, the Parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister, there were typographical errors as well as omissions in certain appropriation accounts submitted for audit.
In seven ministries, there were increases in expenditure by more than 50 per cent from 2011 to 2012.
1. In the Ministry of Sport, expenditure moved from $28.786 million in 2011 to $395.884 million in 2012—a variance of $367.098 million or a 1,275 per cent increase.
2. In the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, expenditure moved from $514,999 million in 2011 to $2.4 billion—a variance of $1.9 billion or 378 per cent.
3. In the Ministry of Transport, expenditure moved from $218.585 million in 2011 to $1.1 billion in 2012—a variance of $843 million or 386 per cent.
4. In the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, expenditure moved from $62.8 million to $208.6 million—a variance of $145.7 million or 232 per cent.
5. In the Ministry of Justice, expenditure moved from $126.5 million in 2011 to $408 million in 2012—a variance of $281 million or 222 per cent.
6. In the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, expenditure moved from $46 million in 2011 to $137.5 million in 2012—a variance of $90.9 million or 194 per cent.
7. In the Ministry of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs, expenditure moved from $1 billion to $1.9 billion—a variation of $924 million or 90 per cent.
And certain ministries or institutions that receive State funding fell under the title “Individual Areas of Concern”.
Among them are:
Office of the Prime Minister: In the appropriation account, there was an allowance for 195 persons on contract which totaled $9.7 million in expenditure.
However, when the Auditor General sought further clarification, it was indicated that “only 55 people were engaged on contract in respect of which expenditure totaling $689,131 was incurred”.
Ministry of Transport: “Errors, omissions and inconsistent presentation of information among the various sections of the appropriation account were noted to be prevalent. The underlying records were also not maintained properly in all instances. These errors/inconsistencies have affected the accuracy of the financial statement to some extent.”
The report noted that $55 million in cheques were not presented to the Auditor General, as well as $108.8 million from the Treasury Card.
There were also inconsistencies in the information and sums paid to contract employees. According to the appropriation contract, employment cost $2.4 million but in response to questions by the Auditor General, the sum paid for contracted employees was valued at $19.3 million.
Ministry of Sport: A total of $31.7 million in cheques was not disclosed in the appropriation account as required by the Comptroller of Accounts.
The Auditor General noted that there were weaknesses in the verification procedures for certain payments.
Some instances were:
• Two payments totaling $11 million were made. However, the statement provided with that payment totaled $5.6 million--a difference of $5.3 million
• A payment of $2,579,920.94 was seen to be supported by an expenditure statement of $2,449,950.94 (a shortfall of $129,970.00).
• Payments totaling $180,737 were made under the Non-profit Institutions note as the ministry’s contribution to funeral arrangements for one individual.
• Four equal amounts totaling $1,996,400 were seen to be paid in one cheque to a company for the “Taking Sports to Rural Areas” project for four regions.
This total exceeded the permanent secretary’s authorised limit of $1 million according to the Central Tenders Board Regulation.
Separate tender documents, recommendations, requests for approval and payment vouchers with similar dates and information were seen for each of the amounts. According to the vouchers seen, the payments related to ten grounds in each region—a total of 40 grounds. However, in response to the query from the Auditor General, only 17 grounds were identified and there is no evidence that work was carried out satisfactorily.
Ministry of Works and Infrastructure: From the sample of 52 contracts, nine contract files for contracts totaling $5.9 million were not presented for audit.
From a sample of 19 payment vouchers for the supply of asphalt, destination information was omitted from nine vouchers and delivery location information differed between delivery notes and cartage receipts in ten instances.
Trinidad and Tobago Police Service: Audit surveys carried out during May 2012 at 12 police stations revealed that records necessary for control over counterfoils, inventory, firearms and vehicles were not properly maintained.
A number of discrepancies were noted in the recording of overpayments. Contract files and related documents necessary to verify expenditure of $1.2 million were also not provided.
Ministry of National Security: There was no documentation to support a $3 million outstanding commitment under the Development Programme. Cabinet approval for the rental of two properties at a cost of $234,6000 a month was not provided.
Defence Force: The Contract Register for the Defence Force was not provided for audit. As a result, information presented on four contracts totaling $31.3 million was not verified.
Ministry of the Attorney General: In response to questions from the Auditor General, the AG’s office stated that 167 people were engaged on contract for a total expenditure of $23.8 million, while the appropriation account for contract employment for the Attorney General was $23,354,772.
Ministry of Food Production: Cabinet approval for the rental of four properties with payments totaling $1.9 million was not produced. As a result, it was not determined whether there was proper authority for the rental of these properties and if the relevant terms and conditions were followed.
The Auditor General’s report noted that recommendations have been made to various ministries for tighter controls.
The full report can be accessed on Auditor General’s website at