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Drain on wages

BARRY ALLEYNE, [email protected]

Drain on wages

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A Government ministry which inadvertently overpaid workers is now short of almost $200 000.

But the Ministry of Environment and Drainage probably won’t get that money back, since many of those employees have been retrenched and some are no longer employed.

The revelation has come from Auditor General’s Leigh Trotman, in the 2016 report.

Trotman noted overdrawn salaries were an issue for Government.

He said while this could happen from time to time, the large amounts of some overpayments suggested that not enough action was being taken to minimise its occurrence.

In the case of the Ministry of Environment, 35 people who were employed under its National Environmental Enhancement Programme were overpaid in excess of $185 000.

“Many of these workers were retrenched and it is unlikely that many of these overpayments can be recovered,” the Auditor General stated.

Trotman added the permanent secretary was aware of the situation, and a contingency plan had been implemented.

“When a large number of persons are taken on to work, the necessary systems, controls and staff should be put in place to keep track of their absences and sick leave, with the information flowing to accounts in a timely manner for wages to be stopped and any overpayments to be repaid,” the permanent secretary had explained to the Barbados Audit Office when the anomaly was brought to the ministry’s attention.

“The information available on the amounts overpaid to the former workers will be sent to the Personnel Administration Division and the Accountant General so that these departments will have a record for any repayments that could be made, if any of these individuals are employed in the service again.”

In his general concerns about Government’s audit practices, Trotman also noted that several ministries and departments were not keeping up to date fixed assets registers, as required by the Financial Rules.

He said those registers ensured all assets purchased by Government were recorded, and they should also be inspected by personnel from the ministries and made available to auditors to verify the assets were accounted for.

“This deficiency needs to be addressed by the relevant ministries and departments.”

He also revealed several agencies did not adequately account for their expenditure, as it was recorded in the incorrect financial year.

Noting the accrual system required expenditure to be recorded in the period goods were received or services provided, unlike the previous system where transactions were only recorded when cash was received or paid out, Trotman said that action prevented the proper matching of revenue and expenditure in a financial year.

Agencies which did not correctly classify expenditure in accordance with the accrual system included the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Transport and Works, and the Ministry of Environment and Drainage.

He also stated a lack of insurance provision by some ministries was a costly issue, citing one example of the Ministry of Transport and Works paying $200 000 in one instance and $154 728 to an insurer to cover its vehicles and equipment, but the funds were applied to some assets and not all, with the result being some vehicles were not covered.

“The ministry was exposed to the risk of having to finance the full cost in case of accident. In addition, several vehicles were not revalued on an annual basis, which could result in higher premiums being paid.” (BA)