Saturday, April 20, 2024

Auditor General queries BCSI use of $4.1m


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An audit of the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries Inc. (BCSI) has revealed a number of questionable practices in its operations.
The BCSI is a non-profit company funded by Government and included in its mandate is the promotion of further development and competitiveness of Barbados’ service sector.
A large portion of the organisation’s expenditure goes toward pursuing business opportunities from export activities.
In a five-year review of BCSI’s operations, Auditor General Leigh Trotman raised questions about the use of the $4.1 million allocated to the company.
He observed that Government did not have a representative on the board of directors to look out for its own interest.
He added that reports generated by the BCSI were not comprehensive enough for Government to better understand its operations and to make timely interventions where warranted.
Trotman called into question a number of trade missions undertaken by the BCSI.
He noted the BCSI selected mission destinations by targeting countries that have trade agreements with Barbados or which were members of CARICOM.
But he said there was no evidence that market research was done within the BCSI to determine to which countries businesses were interested in exporting.
He said the cost of trade missions, which included trade shows, ranged from $37 000 to $136 000 each. He noted that to date the direct cost of housing missions and shows stood at $614 485 but returns were “minimal”.
“Based on documentary evidence provided by the BCSI, the actual income generated from trade missions over the last five years has been minimal,” he pointed out.
“The income generated from these missions, according to a follow-up report, was $54 000,” he said.
The Auditor General also revealed that over the past five years the BCSI’s annual reports indicated the agency hosted more than 20 development workshops but those documents did not provide information on the number of participants or cost.
Trotman said the BCSI gave incentives to encourage participants to prepare mission reports, refunding them a portion of their deposit if they submitted their papers and had contributed to the expenses.
He observed that there were instances where refunds were paid to people who had not produced reports and occasions where companies did not make contributions but were granted refunds.
He remarked that the administrative unit generally accounted for funds expended for salaries, rented accommodation, utilities and general day-to-day management of the BCSI.
But he raised concerns over the basis on which some payments were made and the absence of controls in respect of credit card and cellphone usage.
He said there were no restrictions on the use of phones for local and overseas calls and the BCSI paid all charges. He called on the agency to review the practice.
Responding to the Audit Office, the BCSI noted the comments and said it had commissioned an independent organisational review of its operations which identified issues not dissimilar to those identified by the audit.
The BCSI also revealed it had closed the cellphone account and established a monthly stipend to be paid to two senior employees. This resulted in the monthly bill dropping from $1 500 to $200.


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