Monday’s session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) got underway with public officers being grilled over breaches of the law when it comes to unspent monies intended for the construction of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) building being kept by the agency at year end.
During the questioning, Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President Abena Moore admitted that permission was sought from the Finance Secretary to allow them to retain funds at 2016-year end, in breach of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA).
According to Moore, permission was sought and granted all on the same day – December 31, 2016- to retain $33.275 million. It was explained that permission was sought and granted for the monies to be kept because the construction was a multi-year project.
However, Accountant General Jennifer Chapman explained that as per the FMA, the amounts should have been refunded and re-budgeted, even if it was earmarked for a multi-year project. It was explained that the Financial Secretary can approve the roll over of funds, but not the retention of funds.
PAC member Ganesh Mahipaul questioned whether it was not Moore’s responsibility to ensure unspent monies are returned to the Consolidated Fund, to which she agreed.
The project in question included design and construction of a building to be used by the EPA, as well as the purchase of global positioning systems, noise meter, radiation monitoring system and environmental monitor. The retention of the money was flagged in the Audit Office’s 2016 report, currently being examined at the PAC.