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Audit Records Show Millions of Dollars Misappropriated in Food Pantry Programme

A 41-page audit report on the food pantry programme has surfaced and is showing a blatant disregard of proper accounting processes and the circumventing of the required selection procedures. In the words of the Office of the Auditor General, rules were not followed and there was unauthorized expenditure. On page six of the document, it indicates that the Food Pantry Programme began in 2010 with a clear aim to help residents who were earning thirty five dollars or less per week or families of five who were netting one hundred and seventy five dollars or less every week. It turns out, however, that a proper vetting of the beneficiaries was not carried out and those who were getting pantry came from a wide cross section of residents and not just those who were truly in need. Another finding showed that for the fiscal year, 2016/2017 three point five million dollars was approved by the National Assembly for the food pantry programme. The money was approved with the understanding that the distribution would be done in the Belize and Cayo Districts. The report from the Auditor General shows that more than a quarter million dollars was diverted and went to the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts without approval to do so. The other point of concern had to do with missing receipts or signed vouchers. According to the report, what was being given out and what was being documented amounted to two different figures. It noted on specific instance where, quote, “payments to Salvation Army for packages that did not tally with the number of packages handed out by them” led to different figures. In another instance the report noted that the Queen’s Square Division Political Officer had refused to give the Office of the Auditor General any access to information as it relates to the food programme in that area. Moving on to page-8 of the document, the Auditor General noted that for the period 2017/2018, another three point five million dollars was approved for the pantry programme there was another case of underspending and monies again were diverted. Things got even more concerning during this period as more than two hundred and eighty thousand dollars were taken to pay unauthorized providers for the pantry programme. As we noted, it is a report of 41 pages; our newsroom continues reviewing the papers and will have more on the Auditor General’s Report in tomorrow’s newscast.