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If Mrs Pamela Monroe-Ellis tenders her resignation…

Sunday, April 18, 2021

THE chief internal auditor at the finance ministry has turned the tables on the Auditor General's Department (AuGD), the body that runs a fine-tooth comb through the appropriation accounts of government ministries, departments and agencies.

The ministry found in its just-released 2019 audit of Mrs Pamela Monroe Ellis's outfit, several breaches by the AuGD of the regulations under the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act relating to 2016-2019.

Although reporting that the expenditure process at the AuGD generally conformed to the stipulated guidelines for the payment of public monies, and commending the unit for following the required procedures in relation to the reconciliation of bank accounts, the ministry pointed, among other things, to:

38 instances totalling $864,000 in which supporting documents for payments were not signed or stamped that the service was satisfactorily rendered

59 instances totalling about $1.1 million in which supporting documents for payments were not signed or stamped approved for payment

Overpayment of salary related to no-pay leave and acting allowance amounting to $206,837 in respect of three officers

No procurement unit at the AuGD at the time of the audit, in contravention of the Government of Jamaica's Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures.

We are relieved that up till now there is no suggestion of misappropriation of funds or any other corrupt action on the part of the AuGD. What the chief internal auditor seems to have found were operational deficiencies, some of which related to staffing problems that's par for the course in nearly all ministries and their departments.

But our sense is that Mrs Monroe-Ellis's pride would have been deeply wounded. In 13 years at the helm of the AuGD she has diligently, with calm and respect, carried out her difficult and thankless task in overseeing the effective management of the Government of Jamaica's financial management systems and compliance with financial management policies.

When she has had to point out the multitude of breaches of various government regulations in ministries and agencies, the responsible and accountable officers would have bristled — especially as they faced the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament.

So for Mrs Monroe-Ellis, it must have been difficult to bear the lecturing from the chief internal auditor who told her variably that: “…failure by the auditor general to conform to the requirement of the FAA Act could undermine the accountability process”; “… the AuGD has an obligation to pay over statutory sums and failure to comply was in breach of the law” and “… improper payments could be made if the internal controls to support the processing of payments were not adhered to”.

The unkindest cut was his declaration: “The department's ability to adequately manage its procurement activities in an effective manner could be compromised when the process is fragmented, and the ability to obtain value for money could be adversely impacted.”

It is therefore not inconceivable that she is contemplating resignation. If she is, our advice to the Government is, simply, please don't accept it.