The long-standing anomaly associated with the misallocating of sums voted as “subvention and capital provision” for the Ministry of Agriculture to the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has again attracted unfavourable comment in the Report of the Auditor General.
In defiance of the Auditor General’s recommendation made in previous years that the NDIA maintain its own accounting system, the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2012, allocated $4.704 billion from its subvention and capital; provisions to the operation of the NDIA.
The Auditor General’s Report said that in 2011, the ministry had expended the amount of $4.037 billion on behalf of the NDIA.
Noting that the practice had persisted “in previous financial years” the report said that given the fact that the NDIA is “a separate legal entity” it is required to “maintain its own accounting system and records and is subject to separate reporting and audit.
While the NDIA said it maintains some of its own accounting records including cash flow, income and expenditure, a contract register and copies of payment vouchers, it conceded that up to the time of reporting it was still “in the process of opening its own bank account.”
The issue of financial allocations for the NDIA has attracted robust debate in the National Assembly and this year the opposition political parties drew attention to previous recommendations made by the Auditor General that the NDIA have its own accounting structure rather than be accounted for through the Ministry of Agriculture. During this year’s parliamentary budget debate Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy had said that his ministry had sought – but apparently not yet secured – permission from the Ministry of Finance to set up an independent NDIA account in order to bring the agency in line with regulations.
Several months later and up to the time of the publication of the 2012 Auditor General’s Report, it did not appear that clearance had been secured from the Finance Ministry.
During this year’s budget debate, questions also arose about the reported utilisation of equipment owned by the NDIA to carry out private work.
The Auditor General’s Report, meanwhile, has cited the NDIA for the application of irregular procedures in the administration of fuel and vehicles under the control of the authority.
In this regard the report cited the Ministry of Agriculture for failing to “observe stores regulations in relation to efficiency controls, operations and proper maintenance to the machinery, equipment and vehicles under its control.” Specifically, the report identified the improper “writing up” and absence of supervisory checks of vehicle log books, the apparent breakdown of the approved system that allows NDIA engineers to authorise the issuance of fuel and spares and the absence of historical records for vehicles, equipment and machinery under the control of the NDIA.
Meanwhile, the NDIA’s practices in relation to administration of fuel had also come under critical scrutiny in the Auditor General’s report.
The report alludes to the hiring of “a number of contractors to uplift and transport fuel to its various locations,” a practice which it says “resulted in the responsibility for storage of large quantities of fuel being vested in these private individuals, a regime which the report describes as “very loose.”