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Audit staffing low

Wade Gibbons

Audit staffing low

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POOR STAFFING is having a negative impact on the functioning of the island’s main finance policing agency.
Thirty-five per cent of the posts at the Barbados Audit Office are vacant and, according to an annual plan for the 2011 to 2012 period, one of the main challenges over the past four years has been the inability of the department to recruit and maintain a cadre of qualified people.
“The staff levels in the office have not been at optimal level, not because of finance or having the required level of established posts, but as a result of the inability of the agency responsible for recruitment to fill key vacancies in a timely fashion,” the document stated.
At the end of last year, three senior positions remained vacant despite being previously advertised. The report blamed this on insufficient timely action being taken to complete the recruitment process.
In addition to those vacancies, two senior officers have gone on extended leave and there have been difficulties in finding suitable replacements. Reassignment of a number of officers to other Government departments, the report indicated, has exacerbated the problems.
“In our view insufficient audit attention is paid to non-financial performance reporting in the larger public entities. This is as a result of the unavailability of staff and statutory compliance requirements which stipulate that there must be an annual review of the accounts of each ministry and department . . . ,” the document noted.
Over the past few years the work of the Audit Office has unearthed several financial infelicities in Government, some of which have been passed on to the Royal Barbados Police Force for criminal investigation. Among these have been questionable contractual and financing practices during the construction of the Crab Hill Police Station and financial and procedural irregularities at the Coastal Zone Management Unit.
Despite the difficulties the Audit Office has still been able to respond to complaints emanating from within the Public Service related to late payment of salaries and wages and has already started a review of the process and procedures used by the Personnel Administration Division, the various ministries and departments.
The department also plans shortly to review the process related to land acquisitions and the lengthy delays property owners endure in obtaining compensation from Government.
Yesterday Auditor General Leigh Trotman told the WEEKEND NATION that everything possible was being done to deal with the staffing problems as highlighted in the report.
Quizzed about a reported audit being currently conducted into the financial dealings at Invest Barbados, Trotman said it was simply a routine audit.
That probe was to be undertaken last year but was rescheduled. He also revealed that a “special audit” of the Barbados Water Authority which started last year had not yet been completed.
The Audit Office is seeking $4.6 million to fund its activities for the financial year 2011-2012.