Housing Parliamentary Secretary Reveals Details of Expenditure Between 2002 and 2007

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Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance Brensil Rolle delivers his contribution to debate in parliament on the government’s Mid Term Budget report on Wednesday, February 27, 2008. (Photo/Patrick Hanna)

By: Llonella Gilbert

NASSAU, Bahamas – As part of the $22 million in recurrent supplementary appropriation sought by the government for the 2007/2008 fiscal period, $800,000 has been earmarked for the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance to reimburse the Corporation Sole Account for salaries advanced to contract workers in the Department of Housing.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance Brensil Rolle explained the need for the reimbursement during his contribution to the Mid Year Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, Wednesday, February 27.

Mr. Rolle said that when the Free National Movement became the government in May 2007, it met some 80 persons employed by the Department of Housing on short term contracts outside of the Public Service structure such as Development Officers, Building Inspectors, Maintenance Supervisors, General Service Workers, Officer Managers and Handymen.

“These people,” he said, “were all being paid from the Corporation’s Sole Account resulting in an annual wage bill of $1,250,000.”

Mr. Rolle added that the Department of Housing retained the services of persons whose contracts had not expired and whom it needed, and as no provisions were made to pay those salaries, and as these persons were hired outside of the Public Service structure, their salaries were paid from this account until funds could be made available.

He said the Public Service has been directed to regularise most of these persons and to provide benefits and salaries in accordance with its policies and procedures.

“The Corporation Sole Account was never designed for recurrent expenses,” Mr. Rolle said. “Spending from the Corporation Sole’s account has been set up to allow efficiency of operations by the Minister responsible for Housing and to avoid the delays inherent in the processes established for expenditure from the Consolidated Fund.

“However, spending should still be rationalised and the philosophy underlying use of the people’s money still applies.”

Mr. Rolle said it appears that little control was exercised in the use of funds in the account during the period May 2002 – May 2007, so that in May 2007, the balance of the Corporation Sole Account was -$89,465.31, representing an unapproved overdraft by the Ministry of Housing.

This compares with the balance in the Corporation Sole Account in June 2002 of $2,892,399.42 and a cash book balance of just under half a million dollars, all left by the Minister of Housing under the previous FNM government.

He said this state of affairs came about because in addition to capital works associated with the construction of houses under the government’s housing programme, expenditure from the Corporation Sole Account was made for recurrent items like vehicle purchases and insurance ($595,662.00), for assorted supplies ($145,491), utilities ($269,474.72), travel and subsistence ($243,702.00) and other services rendered ($374,043.00).

“Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude that had this mid year budget performance review been in place in 2002, we would have been able to curb the illegal and reckless spending that took place in the Ministry of Housing,” Mr. Rolle said.