Director of audit Clarence Christian

Director of audit Clarence Christian

Director of Audit, Clarence Christian, has sought to clarify a report published on DNO concerning advances received by Prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, for his travels from December 2009 “to the present” saying it does not correctly reflect the prime minister’s “actual expense.”

He noted that the advances listed in the report were correct but they did not paint a true picture of the prime minister’s travel expenditure, since the prime minister actually refunded some of the money.

“For example for the period July 1st 2009-June 30th 2011, the PM received advances totalling EC$169,993.71 …out of this he spent $131,870.86 and he refunded EC$ 38,122.85,” Christian explained while admitting that he had audited figures only for 2009 to June 2011.

“So the actual expenditure for the PM on those advances was EC$ 131,870.86,” he pointed out.

Christian also noted that during that time period, the prime minister had traveled but did not get an advance and the treasury had to refund him EC$ 32,086.26.

“So the total travel expenses for the Prime Minister is actually EC$ 163,967.08,” he noted.

Christian explained that the advances are what was given to the Skerrit prior his leaving the island but “when he comes back, he has to retire that advance and when he retires that advance, what amount he spend is recorded as expenditure.”

“If there is a difference he has to refund. Either he refunds the treasury or the treasury would have to refund him. In most instances, I would say about 90 to 95 percent of the time, the treasury have to refund,” he said.

He also explained that in the event that one returns before their time or stays longer, the necessary refunding is done.

Christian also revealed that the grand total in travel advances given to Public officers from July 1st 2009, to June 30th 2011 is EC$ 1,236,569.97.

He said of that amount, EC$967,443.67  was spent and the total amount returned to the treasury from those advances was EC$ 159,656.86.

Christian blamed the absence of a functioning Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for the discrepancy in the prime minister’s travel expenditure.

“If we had a functional PAC, all these information could have been made known to the public,” he noted. “The PAC has not been functioning, and they are the watch dog that should look at the accounts of government … they have the power to call any accounting officer to explain to them certain matters.”

He said he has gone the “extra mile” to purchase a laptop, installing the necessary software on it with an outlet so whenever the PAC meets in the House of Assembly, “I can come. I can just hook it up, and give them viewing access of everything that happens in government.”

“Yet still, they don’t meet … all the information is available to them,” he said.

He noted that normally, the duty of PAC chairman falls on the leader of the opposition. The rest of the Committee is made up of one other member of the opposition and two members on the government side in parliament.

Christian said to his knowledge the last time the PAC met was in 2008.

But opposition leader, Hector John, told DNO that the last PAC meeting was held after the last national budget in July, 2013.

“Clarence is using that as a scape goat because we have been asking a lot of questions on behalf of the PAC and they are not giving us information,” he said. “That is one of the reasons why we saw it as a waste of time to have a PAC.”