Several government ministries and agencies advised to strengthen controls over financial accounts, after concerns raised about spending
Several government ministries and agencies have been advised to strengthen controls over their financial accounts, after the Auditor General raised concern about spending.
According to the Auditor General Department’s 2023 Annual Report, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Ministries of Health, Finance, and Education and Youth, as well as the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) are among several entities found in breach of the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act.
The report highlighted that for the OPM, audits of the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 recurrent appropriation accounts were conducted.
These revealed a generally satisfactory state of affairs. However, management was advised to strengthen the controls over accounting for appropriations-in-aid and unused per diem.
It said the FAA Act requires all accounting officers to prepare, sign and transmit to the auditor general the statements relating to the financial activities under their control within a period of four months, after the end of each financial year.
However, the OPM’s accounting officer did not submit three appropriation accounts representing an accumulated budgetary allocation of approximately $12.02 billion.
The Auditor General said this not only breaches the FAA Act, but it also prevents Parliament from effectively monitoring expenditure from the Consolidated Fund.
It said nevertheless, steps are being taken to submit the outstanding appropriation accounts by the end of the fourth quarter of the 2023/2024 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the Auditor General said the Ministry of Education and Youth continues to breach the regulatory requirements in the preparation and submission of the appropriation accounts.
It said the ministry is yet to present appropriation accounts for the nine-year period 2012-13 to 2018-19 and 2021/22 to 2022/23.
During that period Parliament approved $902 billion, (which represents 13.7% of the National Budget) for the management and administration of public education.
The Auditor General said the ministry failed to submit the appropriation accounts which has prevented it from assessing whether or not the money was spent in accordance with the purpose for which it was approved.
It says this undermines good governance practices, as it denies Parliament, citizens and the Finance Ministry, information to hold the management of the Education Ministry accountable on the use of public resources.
For the Finance Ministry, up to the time of Auditor General’s reporting, the ministry did not submit five appropriation accounts.
The late submission of the appropriation accounts prevents the timely assessment of the ministry’s stewardship over the budget allocation of $111. 3 billion approved by Parliament.
And the Auditor General says the Health Ministry has also failed to submit appropriation account for a 10-year period.
During the period, parliament approved $695 billion or 9.1% of the National Budget for the management and administration of the health sector by the ministry.
Due to the failure to submit the report the Auditor General said it was unable to assess whether the ministry spent the funds in accordance with the purpose for which it was approved.
Meanwhile, an audit of the JIS showed that there was a breakdown in the agency’s commitment planning and control system that resulted in excess expenditure for rental of property and machinery and utilities and communication services totaling $36.8 million.
JIS also exceeded its approved budget for two financial years by $80.8 million.
It has been recommended that internal controls be put in place to ensure expenditure is contained within the approved budget.
Among the agencies which the Auditor General said has a generally satisfactory state of affairs are the Office of Cabinet, the Management Institute for National Development and Ministry of Tourism -Bath Fountain Hotel and Spa.