The Auditor General’s Department (AGD) is raising concerns over a lack of transparency and accountability in the hiring of consultants at three government Ministries.

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education.

The concerns stem from a performance audit covering the period April 2010 to August 2016.

The audit sought to determine whether value for money was obtained from the use of consultants, advisors and assistants to Ministers.

Auditor General, Pamela Munroe Ellis, in her Executive Summary says the audit revealed weaknesses in governance practices.

It detailed a lack of transparency in the conduct of some procurement opportunities.

Mrs. Munroe Ellis says, as a result, the government may not at all times, have attained value for money.

She says in a number of instances, the selected ministries were inconsistent in monitoring and evaluating the performances of the consultants, advisors and assistants to Ministers.

Mrs. Munroe Ellis says the ministries did not always use the competitive bidding process to ensure that the best price was paid for contracted services.

She says payment of some of these consultants was above the approved scales.

Gratuity was also paid without evaluation of performance and advisors and consultants were hired without job descriptions or terms of reference.

For example, the Auditor General says, at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) gratuity payments were supported by the formal end of contract performance evaluation reports, consistent with a Ministry of Finance circular.

However, in contrast, at the Ministry of Education, gratuity payments made to three officers were based on notations of satisfactory performance on memoranda authorising payment.

The Ministry of Finance was also found to have contravened of its own circular.

Mrs. Munroe Ellis says gratuity payments at the Ministry were based only on notations by the Accounting Officer or the respective portfolio Minister.

These indicated satisfactory performance, without indications of deliverables achieved.

She noted that her department had no concerns for 80 percent of files reviewed.

However, for the remaining 20 percent, significant weaknesses related to due process, planning and documentation were found, particularly at the Finance Ministry.

The Auditor General is recommending that Ministries ensure that engagement and employment contracts for advisors, assistants and consultants conform to guidelines.

Mrs. Munroe Ellis says the Ministry of Finance should standardise the system for evaluating the performance of the advisors and assistants to Ministers.

She also wants this process to be replicated across all ministries, departments and agencies to ensure transparency and accountability.