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Deeper Look into the AG’s Report on GOB’s Food Pantry Program

Tonight, we dig deeper into the leaked Auditor General’s report of the government’s Food Pantry Program. The findings are for the period 2016 t0 2019 when the United Democratic Party was in power. The audit points out to blatant disregard of proper accounting processes. The report includes four chapters and chapter one looks at expenditure of the public’s money. Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo reports.

The Food Pantry Program which fell under the then Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation was audited for the period April 2016 to March 2019. During this three year period the United Democratic Party was in government. The findings resulted in a forty-two page audit report and one of the main findings reported by the audit team was that the ministry did not apply for authorized reallocations to the Ministry of Finance resulting in misallocations. It says that the Food Pantry Programme was lacking measurable objective and goals. 

It also says that more than twenty-four million dollars were paid as uncertified payments and that the Ministry failed to follow the Finance and Audit Reform Act by failing to follow any tendering procedure in the selection of suppliers. 

It goes further to say that the selection of beneficiaries was not transparent- there were insufficient requirements and the package was only valued twenty-four dollars. Persons who did not qualify received packages and there was no difference between the food packages given to the elderly to those handed to everybody else. Applications forms were incomplete and at least 61 persons who were not approved received food packages. 

As for the distribution of the packages, there was little accounting- there was no revision to ensure that procedures were being followed. 

The leaked documents report several malpractices including the diversion of more than two-hundred and eighty four thousand dollars for financial year 2016/2017. These monies were reportedly spent in the Dangriga and Punta Gorda districts and the report says this was done without the Ministry of Finance or the National Assembly being informed. For the following two fiscal years, there was overspending,  to the tune of more than four hundred thousand dollars. The report found that the Ministry undermined the scrutiny of the National assembly and eliminated any control of proper use of funds. 

There were also misallocations. And that’s because, according to the audit, the Ministry fail to ask permission from the Minister of Finance when it decided to use almost half a million dollars from other allocations to pay for the Food Pantry Programme. Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo.