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Tuesday 17 September 2019
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Tobago

THA not cleared

Augustine scoffs at 'no money missing' claim

Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine
Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine

Minority Assemblyman Farley Augustine has claimed the Auditor General has given the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) an "adverse opinion" on every single report since 2001.

He was responding to statements by Ancil Dennis, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Chief Secretary, last week, that auditor generals' reports on the THA, at least up until 2016, have found nothing untoward in the assembly's operations.

Dennis told the media although inadequate record keeping and administrative issues were highlighted, no money was missing according to the auditor general's report and there was no evidence of corruption.

Speaking on Tuesday at a PDP news conference at the party's uptown Scarborough headquarters, Augustine disagreed.

"The auditor general has given the PNM THA an adverse opinion on every single report that was done of the THA since 2001. An adverse opinion means the auditor general has, over the years, been saying they can't verify our expenditure, our savings, they cannot verify anything because they are not seeing requisites, receipts, for the things acquired. We don't have proper record keeping. And so, that cannot be the fault of the auditor general. That has to be a THA issue."

The representative for Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier recalled during Orville London's term as Chief Secretary, he had promised to rectify the situation.

"He left saying, 'We working on rectifying it. We fixing systems,' and all now the system can't fix. Clearly those with the power must take responsibility for their actions. And so, we reject any notion that somehow the auditor general is responsible for us having an adverse opinion on our audited reports."

Augustine called on Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance Joel Jack to identify the date on which financial statements, by years, were actually submitted to the auditor general.

He also called for answers on whether these submissions met the statutory requirement of the THA in being made three months after the end of the financial year.

"In other words, has the THA actually submitted its financial statements to the auditor general to be audited? That is a statutory, or legal requirement. And were these statements submitted three months after the end of each fiscal year? That too is the law."

The minority assemblyman said if those submissions were not made, "then the auditor general really has nothing to work with."

Augustine also poured cold water on Dennis's claims during last week's briefing that the process of carrying out an effective audit was being affected by a lack of proper accounting procedures, unavailability of records and the absence of a proper filing system.

He regarded Dennis's statements as "quite curious."

Augustine said the last time he went to Signal Hill, where a department of the Division of Health is located, "I saw an office there with documents just lying on the ground, left to waste in an old office there.

"This seems to be how the THA operates, because every Monday morning they move to a new building to rent a new building and we move the offices, and usually there isn't enough space to store these documents.

"And so I really don't know how the PNM could be blaming the auditor general for the piss poor fiscal management and record keeping of the THA. That is really not the fault of the auditor general."

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