scrutinised: Members of the Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association in the public gallery during yesterday’s sitting of the Joint Select Committee at the Maurice J Hamilton Room, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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Ministry: No financial accounts from Blind Welfare in 25 years

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

The Ministry of the People and Social Development has not received financial accounts for the Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association (TTBWA) since the late 1980s.

This information was revealed at yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament  by Kenneth Downer, the internal auditor for the Ministry of the People. The meeting was held at the International Waterfront Financial Centre, Port of Spain, 

According to Downer, “In 1995 when we did one of the internal audits of  the TTBWA they said they were in the process of preparing to hire a firm to do 1992 to 1995. Since then as the internal auditor and even the last visit to them (in August this year) we did not see any audited statements per say.”

Chairman of the  JSC, Independent Senator Victor Wheeler, said the last Auditor General’s report on the financial statements of the Association reviewing the records of Parliament was in the year ended  December 31,  1988.

“That’s about 25 years ago and these reports are supposed to be presented to Parliament every year. This is a serious deficiency on your part. Are you going to be taking steps to address that as well, Mr (Kenneth) Suratt?” Wheeler asked the TTBWA’s executive officer. 

Asked about the audited financial statements, Suratt told the JSC that the only audited report the Association had was the 2008 audited statement which was submitted to the Ministry of the People in July.

However, when pressed by JSC member, Arouca/Maloney MP Alicia Hospedales about the 2008 report, it was revealed by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Simeon Yearwood that he was unaware of the report being received by the Ministry since he had never seen it. 

Account Executive I at the Ministry, Kirk St Louis, who was also asked about the report, said he had never seen any audited statement from the TTBWA.

The auditor II at the Ministry of the People, Toy Durga,  told the JSC, “In August of this year we scrutinised the accounts over a period of six months, a very vigorous audit to look at the whole accounting system at the Blind Welfare Association.

“We had challenges in the sense that they have a computerised accounting system but they have adhoc record keeping. Expenses are not substantiated at times in our examination with what is in the expense pertaining item. There were problems with the salaries, there was a myriad of problems with respect to their record keeping and all of our recommendations were tailored to ensure that there was some formal record keeping that will allow a closer monitoring of how the expenses were incurred by the association. 

“There were problems with the workshop in that the materials were bought but there was no follow up, no balances, no updating of records to ensure that at any point in time they could account for everything that was bought into the organisation and sent to the workshop for production to items,” he said.

He said they were also challenged in getting a full audit and what the organisation has been doing, especially with the funding.

“Because we would have examined the government subvention to a great degree and other funding was something we were not privy to. We requested that particular statement (2008), they said they had it but it was not provided to us at that audit,” he said.

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