Mon | Nov 23, 2020

Govt $2m spend on awards ceremony breaches loan guidelines

Published:Friday | February 14, 2020 | 12:12 AM

The Jamaican Government has to absorb the $2.13 million it spent on a national innovation awards ceremony because the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD, which provided financing for the digital and animation industries project, deemed it an ineligible expense under the loan terms.

The IBRD, a member of the World Bank Group, is funding the Youth Employment in the Digital and Animation Industries project with a US$20-million loan.

The project was scheduled to last for five years and five months, dating from September 3, 2014. However, the Auditor General’s Department, in its report for 2018-19, noted that the overall project execution has been relatively slow.

Since implementation to the end of March 2019, only US$8.26 million or 41 per cent of the loan has been disbursed.

In addition, the project did not meet six of its nine planned targets for the period under review. Of the six, one activity was over 95 per cent completed, two activities would no longer be pursued, while the remaining three were at varying levels of progression, the auditor general’s report said.

According to a May 2018 report by state news agency Jamaica Information Service, the project, formerly housed in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, was relocated to the Office of the Prime Minister as part of a strategic move aimed at accelerating the growth of the local animation industry.

The auditor general’s report said management was advised to strengthen the review, planning, monitoring and oversight of its project activities, taking into consideration the expected procurement requirements and timelines for planned activities to ensure that the objectives are met within the agreed timelines.

The report said management accepted the recommendations and indicated that the Government had applied for an 18-month extension of the project. They also said further steps have since been taken to strengthen the project implementation unit.

With respect to the ineligible $2.13-million expenditure on the awards ceremony, the Auditor General’s Department noted that it did not comply with the procurement method prescribed by the IBRD.

The Office of the Prime Minister is yet to respond to Financial Gleaner queries about that and other issues raised in the report.

However, the auditor general’s report said management was advised to ensure that there is a system in place to consistently monitor the procurement activities of the implementing agencies to reduce the risk of non-compliance with the IBRD guidelines.

An audit of the Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project, also located in the Office of the Prime Minister, in its third year of implementation revealed that execution of programmed activities has been progressing slowly.

The Auditor General’s Department said that at the time of reporting, 21 of the 29 procurement activities planned were delayed, and in some instances by two years.

In addition, as at end March 2019, the Integrated Community Development Project, another undertaking located in the Office of the Prime Minister, had utilised 51.91 per cent of the US$42 million loan fund though the project is in its fifth year of implementation and is scheduled to end in June this year.

The loan agreement requires the establishment of a steering committee to oversee implementation of the disaster reduction and community development projects and is expected to meet quarterly.

However, the Auditor General’s Department noted that only one meeting was held for the disaster reduction project and two for the community development project during the period under review.

In addition, the department said it saw no evidence that work plans were reviewed and appropriately approved by the steering committee, or that constraints were discussed and addressed in a timely manner.

Consequently, the department was unable to determine whether the steering committee provided adequate oversight of the projects.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com