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—Audit report flags mismanagement, lax controls
A performance audit of the COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance Voucher Programme revealed that between April and September, 2020, more than 9,000 persons were denied vouchers though they were in need of the assistance.
“Over 9,000 out of 11,000 qualified applicants did not receive vouchers, and officials have not explained why. The programme excluded persons in the hinterland regions. Instead, they were promised hampers,” the Auditor General Deodat Sharma said in the report which was circulated during Monday’s Sitting of the National Assembly at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
The COVID-19 Assistance Voucher Programme was part of a Government initiative to provide economic relief to citizens during the pandemic, particularly single-parents, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and those who suffered loss of income due to the pandemic.
It was executed by the Ministries of Finance, Communities and Social Protection in collaboration with the National Data Management Authority and the Civil Defence Commission in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and 10.
Those who benefited received toiletries, food and sanitary supplies by way of a voucher valued between $25,000 and $32,000, however, according to the report, there were significant gaps in the programme.
“Vouchers totalling $56M were not checked before paying suppliers. This weakness could have resulted in overpayment to suppliers and eligible persons not given much needed relief,” the Auditor General explained.
It was noted too that over 3,000 unused vouchers valued at least $90M were unsecured on a desk. Further, it was noted that the information system was not fully protected.
“Lack of standard controls put the information system at risk. Therefore, unauthorized persons could have changed or deleted information. In addition, there were no yearly security checks and business continuity and disaster recovery plans prepared,” the report pointed out.
The Audit General, in his report, made 13 recommendations intended to strengthen the system.