DPM: Govt. fulfilled its commitment with forensic audits

DPM: Govt. fulfilled its commitment with forensic audits
Peter Turnqest

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Although several promised forensic audits into government ministries and entities remain outstanding, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the government has fulfilled its commitment relating to that exercise.

While responding to questions from reporters at the Office of the Prime Minister, Turnquest said the government audited areas it considered priorities, and have made those reports available to the public.

“I think you are aware that a number of the audits have been completed and they have been laid in Parliament,” he said.

“And so, I believe — I am not sure whether there are any further ones that are outstanding at the moment — we have certainly fulfilled our commitments in that regard.

“And of course, as situations arise, we may do other things.”

Upon coming to office, the Minnis administration committed to forensically auditing, Urban Renewal, Bank of The Bahamas, the former government’s hurricane relief program, the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI), and the Post Office Savings Bank.

It later added the Ministry of Finance to that list.

Of that original list, audits into Urban Renewal Grand Bahama and the Ministry of Finance were completed and tabled last October.

The government has also tabled audits into Bahamas Power and Light and the Water and Sewerage Corporation.

However, the government has remained tight-lipped on the status of the remaining audits.

Asked for clarity on when the remaining audits will be completed, Turnquest said, “The ones that we considered priorities have been done and tabled.

Asked if the audits that have yet to be tabled were not considered priorities, the minister suggested other audits were “in process” but he did not provide specifics.

Pressed on which of the audits were being finalized and those not considered priorities, Turnquest only said, “You just named them.”

When the government committed to the forensic audits, it sold the exercise as a means of identifying financial deficiencies and breakdowns in the administration of system controls.

It said in order to minimize the tax burden on Bahamians, it had to get its costs under control and limit waste as much as possible, and the forensic audits were one of the ways to achieve that mandate.

While the Minnis administration has tabled four audit reports to date, the cost to conduct three of them remains unknown.

The audit into BAMSI was expected to be tabled before the June budget debate last year. However, that did not happen.

When contacted yesterday, Minister of Marine Resources and Agriculture Michael Pintard advised that the audit into BAMSI was ongoing.

He was unable to provide further details on the scope of the audit or when it could be completed at this time.

Ernst & Young (EY), which was engaged under the previous BPL board in April 2017 after alleged fraud was uncovered, completed its audit in August 2017.

The report was tabled in Parliament that November.

EY found, among other things, that the invoice approval and payment process in place allowed for fraud to go undetected for several months.

There were also numerous irregularities in the award of contracts.

The audit into the financial affairs at BPL cost the power company $300,000.

EY also audited the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC). It completed that report last February.

The government tabled the audit last March.

Despite repeated questioning, the government has yet to reveal costing.

However, Eyewitness News Online understands the price tag is over $500,000.

The government tabled two audits conducted by U.S. firm FTI Consulting Global into the Ministry of Finance.

An audit of the Urban Renewal program in Grand Bahama was also tabled for the fiscal period July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2017.

But it remains unclear how much FTI Consulting Global was paid to conduct those audits.