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Millions paid out without proper documentation, verification

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Millions paid out without proper documentation, verification

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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THE State paid out more than $138.242 million to 13,449 families under the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) component of the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme in May, without final scores and verification dates.

Another 1,142 individuals did not submit the required documents for processing, but 516 of them were paid a total of $3.18 million.

This and other anomalies were uncovered by government auditors, according to a report by the Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday.

According to the findings, $1.36 million was disbursed to 255 individuals who were not eligible for the grants.

The auditor general said these and other anomalies occurred due to inefficient operation of the relevant controls over the Beneficiary Management Information System (BMIS), and the general controls over the beneficiary registration, verification and payment processes. The auditors said not only was there a high risk of irregular or erroneous COVID-19 PATH grant payments, but also PATH payments in general.

The report is the third and final in a series of reports on the results of the audit of the CARE Programme, and sought to determine if there was compliance with the eligibility, processing and disbursement guidelines pertaining to the Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash) and general grant.

The follow-up review of the COVID-19 PATH grant focused on the application controls over the BMIS and the general controls over the beneficiary registration, verification and payment processes to determine whether they were reliable.

The investigation found that the BMIS used to process PATH benefits “did not have effective controls to provide reasonable assurance that the information processed was reliable, that data was being processed as intended in keeping with the system’s design and business requirements, and that the information generated was accurate, complete and consistent and relates to only bona-fide PATH beneficiaries”.

Monroe Ellis said other discrepancies identified with the BMIS included inadequate controls to identify duplicate records in the enrolment of individuals on PATH, and inconsistencies between the family status and the family member status of beneficiaries in the system.

In addition, the auditors said in a follow-up review of 776 terminated individuals who, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, were “inadvertently included in the May 2020 payment…due to a glitch in the BMIS”, despite requests, the ministry had not provided any evidence that the $5.413 million which it said had been withheld has in fact been written back.

The audit team said subsequent checks revealed that three of the 776 individuals were also included in the June 2020 payroll.

Additionally, the auditor general said the labour and social security ministry did not provide more than 59 per cent of beneficiaries’ files that were requested for review.

“We selected a sample of 409 beneficiaries’ files for review, however, only 167 files or 41 per cent of the files requested were submitted for review. The ministry indicated that the remaining 242 files, representing payments totalling $1,592,000, could not be located at the time of audit.

“Consequently, we were not able to determine whether all the beneficiaries from the sample satisfied the eligibility criteria under the programme,” the report stated.

And a review of the files received revealed that 66 did not include at least one of the documents required for the processing of PATH benefits, according to the report.

The total amount paid to these 66 individuals in May 2020 was $440,600, according to the findings.

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