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AG Report Shows Serious Mishandling of Food Pantry Program Funds under UDP Administration

Love News continues to examine the contents of the Auditor Report on the Food Pantry Program. The audit covers the period between 2016 and 2019, when the United Democratic Party was in office. The report is divided into four chapters including the Selection of and Payment of Suppliers in Chapter Two. In that chapter, the Auditor General’s team finds that the Ministry failed to adhere to the Finance and Reform Act and put the public’s money at risk. Hipolito Novelo reports.

Chapter two of the audit report speaks to the selection of and payment to suppliers of the food pantry packages. The then Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation worked with eight registered suppliers and one unregistered provider.The list included several NGOs and according to the audit report, the payments of the NGO’s were not dependent on their monthly reports. These NGO’s received payment regardless of monthly reports. In fact, no officer was tasked to certify the accuracy of vouchers. The Auditor General recommends that this practice be put to a stop immediately. 

Page 18 of the report says that payments totaling more than twenty-four million dollars was seen approved and paid without a certification of correctness. The Auditor General is recommending that all payment vouchers be certified. And because there was no certification the ministry could not have been able to ascertain several things including if the services were duly performed-meaning that they were not aware that the NGO was delivering all packages paid for, The Ministry was not aware if the price being paid was the actual price. 

Between 2010 and 2019, a reported twenty-four million dollars with of food packages was delivered with the Salvation Army receiving the bulk of it, more than thirteen million dollars. On page 21 on the audit it says that three of the four providers interviewed explained that they were directly contacted by the staff from the Ministry asking if they were interested in becoming providers. Salvation Army had no member on the event. The then CEO Judith Alpuche explained that Salvation Army was initially used since they were already providing food services. Its services became packed and the government became using other NGOs. 

There was no tendering procedures when selecting a supplier meaning that the Finance and Audit Reform Act was breached this left the government exposed because by not entering into a written contract, the ministry placed public funds at risk since there has been no formal obligation on the part of the provider. 

Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo.