A lack of cross-ministry communication and collaboration in government assistance grant programmes meant that applicants received assistance from multiple programmes for the same purpose, with some receiving even more funds than requested in some instances.
This was revealed in the report of an audit conducted into Public Assistance Grant programmes controlled by lawmakers and government ministries between January 2019 and May 2022 and submitted in December 2022 by the government’s Internal Audit Department (IAD).
Over $10M awarded by former Premier alone
Over the period, the government awarded over $22.9 million in assistance grants across three ministries and the House of Assembly (HOA), with the lion’s share of that disbursement – some $10.7 million or 47 per cent – being awarded solely by former Premier Andrew Fahie
. The audit also found that 39 per cent was awarded by 13 members of the House of Assembly.
The audit, which was conducted by the government’s Internal Audit Department (IAD) and submitted in December 2022, showed that, for the most part, the transfer of these funds were not governed by any financial rules contained in any legislation or other financial instructions approved by the government or handed down by any administrative body.
It was further noted that none of the programmes have any eligibility criterion which meant that persons from all social classes applied for and received assistance from all the programmes.
“Although all public finance is governed by the rules of the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2004 and Public Finance Management Regulations, 2005, expenditure under Assistance Grants Programmes are not specifically governed by these rules,” the audit report noted.
Duplicated grant programmes
The review found that these grants programmes are duplicative in nature and noted that recently drafted guidelines for administration of the Premier Office’s grants programme are almost identical to the guidelines used for the House of Assembly.
The report found no transparent reasoning why multiple programmes would exist that support the same purpose.
Citing the example of educational assistance grants, the audit showed that such grants were not only administered by the Ministry of Education, but could also be obtained from the Premier’s Office and the House of Assembly.
According to the report, housing assistance in the wake of the hurricanes of 2017 was offered through the Housing and Recovery Programme administered by the Ministry of Health and Social Development.
But the audit showed that the same assistance could be obtained through the Ministry of Communications and Works and the Premier’s Office as well as the House of Assembly.
The programmes also lacked, for the most part, any limitation on the amounts that can be awarded whether individually (one-time award) or collectively (multiple awards to same applicant) during a specified timeframe. As a result, some applicants received in excess of $50,000 in a single payment, the report showed.