DPM: Govt. could “go deeper” into NSA audit

Turnquest laments work of auditor general being politicized

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the government continues its review of an audit into the National Sports Authority (NSA), which uncovered several damning revelations relating to the award of certain contracts, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the government could decide to “go deeper” and forensically audit aspects of that report.

However, he said no determination has been made as yet.

On Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he has instructed the commissioner of police to investigate the findings of the audit, which among other damning revelations, found than an unnamed consultancy firm was paid $1.19 million for work that was reportedly never completed.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Online at the Ministry of Finance, Turnquest said, “The police will do whatever they do to the extent that they feel there is something that they are unclear about then they may suggest they need evidence or they don’t have enough or whatever it is.

“Again, I don’t want to prejudge that process. That’s the police and we will let them do what they do.

“From our perspective, we are still looking at the audit to see the areas of weakness that have been identified and we will develop corrective measures to deal with that.

“As we look at the report and study it, we will make our own internal determinations whether we feel that there is a need to go deeper on a particular issue; whether that has anything to do with the police, that is a different matter.

“We may determine that we want to look at a particular transaction or particular aspect of the report, again for our own purposes.”

The six-year audit of the authority completed by Auditor General Terrance Bastian revealed that expenditures to support stadium readiness upgrades lacked transparency, the government may not have gotten value for money from special funding provided to put on several international events, and numerous contracts lacked formalized “process and transparency”.

The report noted that the contract for the consultancy firm in terms of specifications and conditions had “shortcomings” as all deliverables were never completed.

The authority’s board recommended to cancel the company’s services, but up to that point, $1.19 million had already been handed over to the company.

Former NSA Chairman LeRoy Archer told The Nassau Guardian last week that he had objected to the contract.

But former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Danny Johnson shot back that Archer was seeking to insulate himself.

Johnson said the company was contracted to assist with securing, organizing and marketing events to be held at the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium.

He said the ultimate goal was to promote sports tourism in The Bahamas.

Johnson, who did not name the company, said it was selected through a fair bidding process.

Politicized

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said the PLP has no confidence the Royal Bahamas Police Force will be able to conduct an investigation into the audit without political interference, insisting the NSA audit will be politically tainted.

Yesterday, Turnquest said it is unfortunate that the work of the auditor general has been politicized.

He clarified that the primary goal of an audit is to get a fair and accurate representation of the audited entity at a particular point in time, but where irregularities of question occur “then there may be a consideration for a forensic audit to dig deep into a particular issue”.

“The whole concept of auditing is one of independence; without independence there really is no value benefit to do an audit. And I am sure, the auditor general himself being a qualified accountant, with the ethical responsibility that comes with that, understands his obligations very clearly.

“We recognize, and as the auditor general goes through various agencies and ministries, he makes his recommendations with respect to internal control improvements that should be considered.

“And we, as the administering agency, we look at those very carefully and we recommend, and through our internal audit department and through our own staff financial officers seek to implement those controls improvements.”

The report also revealed that another entity, referred to as ‘Company G’, was paid just over $1 million between July 31, 2014 and January 24, 2018 in four installments, but a review of that contract revealed that none of the work was put to tender and the contract documents were not in place.

The auditor general said value for money could not be determined.

The report tabled in Parliament last week covered the period July 19, 2011 to December 31, 2017.