NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Auditors hired by the Davis administration have found quite a few deficiencies within the operation of the National Food Distribution Programme.
The programme was established under the Minnis administration to assist people in need throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Philip Davis tabled ATI Company Limited’s audit report within the House of Assembly yesterday.
Auditors found that a draft emergency food distribution plan was not appropriately designed and implemented and said there was no evidence that “controls operated effectively for financial reporting and monitoring.”
The report said: “Key business policies and procedures weren’t documented or weren’t appropriately documented with a purpose to provide appropriate guidelines, standards, and crucial reference within the performance of the food programme’s operations.
“There was no evidence provided related to the validation or monitoring of vouchers issued. Detailed request for weekly vouchers remained outstanding as on the state of this report. Participants didn’t appear to have received and/or maintained sufficient and appropriate documentation and support related to the duty force’s and the food programme’s execution and operations, specifically for: reports monitoring and reconciling beneficiary distributions per their assigned zones (reports requested remained outstanding as on the date of this report from NGOs); expenditures incurred and settled (insufficient support or no support provided for some samples tested); minutes from meetings held (no minutes provided).”
“There have been no minutes maintained, as such, no support was provided to corroborate weekly meetings, instructions given/received, approvals agreed/granted, and changes made throughout the food programme. Premature submission of information or no data submission was pervasive, and items remained outstanding from all entities as on the date of this report. There was no evidence observed to support available data and documentation. There was no evidence of controls in place to handle data accuracy and completeness…There was no evidence of the duty force’s policies and procedures in relation to vendor selections for the food programme.”
Auditors also said no evidence was provided to support “the availability of weekly reports to the Office of the Prime Minister as detailed within the emergency plan”.
The report said: “No evidence was provided to corroborate financial accounting and reporting submissions to the federal government of The Bahamas as detailed within the emergency plan.”
The auditors also found that review and reconciliation procedures gave the impression to be ineffective/inadequate based on errors that were noted during their work.
Discussing the audit within the House of Assembly, Davis said the federal government continues to have difficulty getting answers concerning the operations of the food task force.
He noted that requests of how $53m was spent haven’t been answered.
“To be clear, documents have been provided, but they aren’t documents that answer crucial questions posed,” he said.
“To make an analogy, if someone asks, ‘How much did your automotive cost?”, and the automotive owner answers, “my automotive is blue,” a solution of sorts has been provided, but not one in every of great relevance to the questioner.”
Davis said he has no personal issue with the people or NGOs involved.
“I do find it a matter of great concern that a programme like this was run out of the previous government’s Office of the Prime Minister with almost no controls or oversight,” he said.