THE New Democratic Party (NDP) says the government is playing fast and loose with the country’s money and that between 2010 and 2015, there is a huge discrepancy in the country’s overdraft account, with some EC$95 million unaccounted for.
Leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Dr. Godwin Friday in a virtual meeting aired on Facebook on Tuesday, said that the figures in the Government’s overdraft account at the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG) are different from what the Accountant General has been able to provide to the Audit Department.
“Let’s take for example for the period 2010 to 2015, that’s for six years, according to the bank, which was the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines… the overdraft amount that was stated for 2010 on the bank’s account was, let’s round it off, $58 million,” “The Accountant General however stated the amount of the overdraft as $44 million, that’s a $13 million difference.
“So the bank is saying, somebody required the spending of 58 million in overdraft, but the Accountant General in the report presented to the Director of Audit says that is only $44 million is in the overdraft balance,” Dr. Friday said about the 2010 figures.
Further, the opposition leader said that in 2011, the bank said $33.7 million was in the overdraft account, but the Director of Audit said it was $16.3 million.
“That is $17 million less than the bank says was actually, that somebody actually requisitioned to spend. More than half of the money in that year, the Accountant General could not present to the Director of Audit how that money was spent, where it went.
“In 2012 the amount was, and the bank says it had $41.6 million in its overdraft account, and the Accountant General said it was $31.3 million, for a difference of $10 million,” Dr. Friday noted.
He added, “in 2015 the bank said it was $51.1 million but the Accountant General’s account says it was $34 million, so there was a difference of $16.9, almost $17 million between what the bank says was actually spent, because that was the amount that was drawn on the overdraft account, and what the Accountant General said in their own statement of assets and liabilities.”
He also noted that in 2014, “it got even worse, the discrepancy, the difference between what the bank says was spent. What was in its account of this overdraft facility was $60.5 million and the Accountant General said it was $31 million, couldn’t account for $28 million.”
The NDP president said that in 2015, which is the year for the most recent report, the amount was $60 million in the bank’s account and $50 million according to the Accountant General, “so you have a nine million dollar discrepancy.”
Friday said the audit reports are always late and stressed that over the period 2010 to 2015, there is a difference of about $95 million between
what the bank says was drawn as part of its overdraft account; and the Accountant General cannot present to the Director of Audit, the right figures as it relates to the overdraft account.
“What this means is, it is not the fact that there is a discrepancy, but that discrepancy must be explainable and when the Accountant General can’t explain that to the satisfaction of the Director of Audit then it leads to all sorts of questions… “…were there inefficiencies? Were there losses or worse? Was there misappropriation? These are questions that need to be answered,” Dr. Friday stressed.
He is of the opinion that the government has abused the overdraft facility as many times, it has exceeded the limit set by Parliament, and has also failed to clear the overdraft at the end of the year as is required under the law.
“Sometimes is 50, 60 million dollars still in overdraft at the end of the year,” Dr. Friday said, while noting that the government has converted part of the overdraft expense into a long term loan without the approval of Parliament.
“…They just said, ‘listen, this is getting too high let’s borrow it, get the bank to set it up as a loan’, but Parliament usually, at the budget, would usually approve the loans at the end of the year and if it don’t come there you not supposed to bring new debt onto the people without the suiting of the Parliament but they have been doing it,” Dr. Friday stressed.
“This is a very serious problem,” he said while pointing that the Director of Audit’s most recent report is 2015, which means audits are now six years behind.
“…So it is very difficult to keep track of how the finances of the country have been managed and whether the watch dog agency that is the Director of Audit, the Audit Department, approves of the way in which the government has managed the finances,” Dr. Friday said.
“And I can tell you even though the reports are way behind, we still read them to see what they tell us of how the government has conducted our affairs say five, six, seven, eight years ago. That is the best we can do because the most recent one is six years old.
“But they are very important documents and many queries have been raised by the Director of Audit over the years”.