APPROXIMATELY $30M of government Covid-19 money sent to departments has not been audited by the Auditor General.
According to the Auditor General’s report for the period October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, the government has spent just over $293 million on Covid-19 support for its various departments.
However, only $263,658,525.35 of this amount has been verified.
“Actual Covid-19 expenditures recorded in Schedule II of the ministry schedule were recorded at $126,750,070.84. Covid-19 related expenses recorded in the voting book were $133,129,245.75, a difference of $6,379,174.91,” the report noted.
The Auditor General’s report said that a donation of US$100,000 from the government of the Republic of Korea for Covid-19 mitigation measures, to be used for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), was not reflected in the statement provided,” he noted. .
Among the issues raised in the report, which was tabled in Parliament last Monday and dated April 28, 2022, was that contracts were not provided for Ministry of Health spending:
1. Expenses totaling $12,458,803.80 were recorded for 4,824 Covid-19 “trips,” which were state-paid ambulance rides. The audit revealed that a copy of the contractual agreement between the ministry and the service provider outlining the terms and conditions of this service was not provided for audit review.
2. A medical equipment upgrade contract with seven payment vouchers in the amount of $12,958,369.30 was not provided.
3. Hospital Renovation Program contractual agreements for nine payment vouchers in the amount of $12,532,296.71 have not been provided.
The Department of Finance was the second largest recipient with $123,656,952.84.
Several ministries and entities receiving state funds did not respond to the Auditor General on their Covid-19 related expenditures. They are: the judiciary; the Prime Minister’s Office; the Ministry of Public Works and Transport; the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Caricom.
The report noted that there were several disparities in government-administered Covid-19 grants.
The government, in its management of Covid-19, has administered a number of grants to support citizens affected by the containment measures.
Among them were the Wage Relief Grant from the Ministry of Finance, the Emergency Creator Grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Ethnic Arts and the Income Support Grant from the Ministry of Social Development and Community Services. family.
Among the findings of the Auditor General concerning the Wage Relief Subsidy (SRG) distributed by the Ministère des Finances:
1. Eight cases were found where people under the age of 18 were receiving the GIS, which totaled $23,500.
2. A case of duplicate National Insurance Number was observed for a claimant who was paid twice for a total of $6,000. This was also identified by the Ministry of Finance and the funds were recovered.
3. A case was found where the national identification number was the same for two applicants. Both contestants were paid $3,000 each.
4. The last day of employment for two applicants was June 1, 2021. One individual received $1,500 for May 2021 and the other received $1,000 for May 2021. According to the criteria for the grant, applicants no should have received no payment for May 2021. .
5. Two cases where people over 65 received GIS, this totaled $6,000.
6. Two hundred and sixty-four cases were found where the applicants’ date of birth did not match their national identification number. Payments to these claimants totaled $759,000. “Subsequently, Ministry of Finance officials concurred with the Auditor General’s conclusion that data entry errors had occurred because input data had not been checked against source documents. They also said that such input errors did not affect the value of the payments,” the report states.
7. The SRG and Income Support Grant databases were joined and checked to determine if recipients were receiving both the SRG and the Income Support Grant. Four cases were found, totaling $12,000. It should be noted that this error occurred at the Department of Social Development and Family Services, as the applicants were registered with the NI system and therefore were not eligible for the income support grant.
8. The SRG and Food Support Grant databases have been joined. It was discovered that 18 people who received the Food Support Grant also received the GIS totaling $41,000. “Finance Ministry officials said there was a need to clarify policy on entitlement to benefits,” the report said.
Income Support Grant
Income Support Benefit (ISG) has been reinstated from May 2021 to help people whose employment or income was suspended/terminated on or before May 1, 2021.
This applied to people working in bars, restaurants, street vendors who sell food, the entertainment industry, the tourism industry, casinos and gambling houses, hairdressers/barbers/spas, nightclubs, gyms and retail.
The report analyzed data for the period from May 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021 and the conclusions are as follows:
1. The audit was unable to determine the ISG payment criteria under the second phase. Cabinet Minutes No. 288 of October 8, 2020, paragraph (h) stated: “Persons outside Social Security who have suffered a loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic will be considered for a reduction in respect of the ISG Social Assistance administered. by the Department of Social Development and Family Services. The audit was informed that the MSDFS has developed the eligibility criteria based on the Prime Minister’s announcement and subsequent public health advisories.
2. All fields were completed in the payment file for ISG except for the “Effective date of last day of employment” field which was completed in only 22 of the 1 cases. 304 requests. Due to a lack of information, Audit could not determine whether the remaining 1,282 candidates, who were paid, were eligible for ISG based on the last date of employment criterion.
3. Five cases were found where people with the same name and national identification number received the ISG twice. Payments to these claimants totaled $15,000.
4. Six cases were found where applicants’ national identification numbers did not match the date of birth entered in the database. Payments to these beneficiaries totaled $17,500. However, 16 applications with the same problem were not paid. These requests have been placed in the “pending requests file” pending payment.
5. Four people received both ISG and GIS totaling $12,000. This was identified when the ISG and SRG payment files were attached and analyzed.
6. Ten people were enrolled in the National Insurance (NI) system but were receiving ISG. ISG’s payment criterion was that only people who do not have an NI number should apply.
7. Eighteen people received both the ISG and the Food Support Grant (FSG) for a total of $41,000.
8. Some 5,392 people applied for the ISG and 4,088 were rejected. Some 1,304 people received the ISG. There were 27 different reasons for rejection of ISG claims. The main reason was that the applicant had an NI number. This totaled 2,322 claimants of which only 35 were paid by the National Insurance Board (NIB). Other reasons for rejection included missing information and applicants were not in the ISG-eligible sector.
Emergency Relief Grant
The report notes that Cabinet Minute No. 1133 of July 2, 2020 agreed “to provide a one-time emergency relief grant in the amount of $5,000 to artists and creatives, who have lost income due to exhibitions, classes, canceled conferences, workshops and other related cultural events, following the measures taken by the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19)”.
The grant was launched on Friday, July 10, 2020.
1. Seven applicants were awarded the Emergency Relief Grant (ERG) twice in fiscal year 2021 for a total of $35,000.
2. ERG data for the 2,843 artists paid in 2021 was joined with ERG data for the 823 artists who were paid in 2020. The audit found that eight applicants who received the ERG in 2020 were again paid the ERG in 2021 for a total of $40,000.