$6,500 per month on rent for Consul General Office in Atlanta

Auditors said maximum allowance of $2,588 was unrealistic, however

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – An audit of the Bahamas Consulate Office in Atlanta, Georgia, revealed that the government was paying $6,500 per month for the residence of the consul general, more than double the maximum allowance for the size of the apartment being rented.

The maximum allowance for a three-bedroom apartment in Atlanta was $2,588 per month, according to Auditor General Terrance Bastian, who reported that this figure, however, was unrealistic in comparison to other foreign service locations.

The audit was covered the period July 1, 2016 through June 18, 2018.

“During our review of the rental allowances for foreign service officials, we noted that the maximum allowance for a three bedroom in Atlanta is $2,588 monthly,” auditors reported.

“Approval was granted for the Consul General’s current lease agreement for $6,500 monthly, which exceeds the maximum allowance.

“However, we view this amount of $2,588 as not being realistic in comparison to other foreign service location.

“We recommend that this maximum amount of $2,588 be revised to reflect current market prices.”

It is unclear if the maximum allowance has since been revised.

Astra Armbrister-Rolle was appointed as consul general effective November 17, 2017.

The Bahamas Consulate General Office is located on 2970 Clairmont Road NE.

A review of available apartments in Midtown, Atlanta area show that three-bedroom units range from around $3,000 to well over $8,000.

Payment vouchers

Auditors found “unusual purchases” on the operational account when scrutinized, the report said.

A purchase on March 2, 2017, was made in the amount of $140.

Another purchase in December 2016 was made in the amount of $1,320.

Auditors said, “While amounts may not be material, funds are to be used properly.

“We recommend that an explanation be given for these purchases.”

Auditors also found that some payments, namely $650 for clothing allowance and $500 for a DJ for the Independence celebrations, were made outside the fiscal period — April 12, 2017 and July 19, 2017, respectively.

In 2016, the Consul General Office spent $9,108.52 on Independence celebrations, more than $2,100 over its $7,000 allowance from the government.

In 2017, however, the office spent $3,750 for the celebration.

Between May 16, 2018, and June 6, 2018, the office spent $1,500 on Independence celebrations.

Auditor General Terrance Bastian recommended that the Bahamas Consul General Office be “guided by the budgeted amount as far as possible”.

Additionally, a review of the expenditure accounts showed that the Consulate General paid funds from its operational account on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between November 2017 and March 2018, totaling $51,993.45.

At the time of the audit, it appeared that the funds had not been reimbursed.

Auditors recommended that the ministry reimburse the Consul General office.

The Consul General’s Office collected just over $91,600 in 2015/2016 and $69,255 in 2016/2017 — a decrease of more than 30 percent.

The decrease was largely attributed to foreign nationals who were provided visa exemptions at the consular division upon arrival in New Providence.

Revenue collected related to passports, visas and notary public between July 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018 totaled $51,645.