It has been revealed that the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology approved early retirement for six employees only to rehire them as consultants and pay them more.
The revelation was made in the annual report of the Auditor General’s Department tabled in the House of Representatives this week.
The department said its audit of the ministry covered financial years 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.
The Auditor General’s Department said the six officers of the ministry were granted early retirement under the government’s Special Early Retirement Programme.
Their retirement took effect from April 30, 2018 and their re-engagement on one-year contracts took effect on that same day.
The six retirees were paid between 22.1% and 263% more than their emoluments before early retirement.
The Auditor General said the terms of reference and scope of service of the consultants were similar to the respective functions they performed before retirement.
Additionally, these officers were not paid based on job performed but received fixed monthly payments, totalling $21.67 million for the period.
The Auditor General noted that this figure significantly exceeded 15% of the total savings generated by the early retirement programme, despite rules mandating that the cost for any rehire should not exceed that limit.
The department pointed out that the ministry’s action would not have been in line with fiscal strategies to keep salaries at 9% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Additionally, the Auditor General highlighted that the ministry did not obtain competitive quotations or advertise the procurement opportunity for these consultancy services.
It said, in justifying the use of the direct contracting method, the ministry indicated that the procurement of the consultancy service was urgent.
However, the Auditor General argued that the ministry did not assess the impact on the organization of the separation of all six officers who worked in critical technical areas.
In March 2017, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced plans to introduce the early retirement programme which involved persons over 50 years old opting to leave their jobs for a lump sum payment.
No needs assessment
Meanwhile, the Auditor General discovered that the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology did not carry out a needs assessment when procuring fixed assets.
Computer equipment costing more than $600,000 was not put to use and were in storage, two years after acquisition.
Eight other computer items were seen in storage.
However, the Auditor General said due to the poor maintenance of inventory records, she was unable to determine when the items were purchased.
It was also noted that fixed assets acquired at a cost of $1.44 million were not recorded in the ministry’s inventory records or marked with asset codes.
In addition, the ministry did not carry out routine or annual independent checks of its assets and records, to identify and correct discrepancies.
Revenue not credited to designated bank account
In the meantime, the Auditor General found no evidence that miscellaneous revenue totalling $3.1 million collected via electronic payments was credited to the designated bank account maintained by the Accountant General Department.
According to the Auditor General, neither the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology nor the Accountant General’s Department was aware of the discrepancies until it was brought to their attention by the auditors.
The ministry has since written to the bank requesting details of funds collected through point of sale terminals and deposited to the Accountant General Department’s bank account.