$800,000 wasted on goods

The Barbados Water Authority has wasted more than $800,000 on goods which it never received and those responsible should be held accountable.

This was the suggestion in a Special Audit Report which was tabled in Parliament yesterday.

That report indicated that aspects of the procurement functions were not being effectively discharged and highlighted several anomalies in the process.

“Considerable expenditure is incurred in the purchasing process and the authority needs to ensure that adequate systems are in place and are adhered to,” the audit stated.

It was also highlighted that despite a directive issued in April 2009 that all contracts totaling $20,000 or more should be submitted to the ministry for approval this directive was not been adhered to in an order made by the then Procurement Consultant from an American based firm. “The goods were subsequently authorised by the executive chairman. It should be noted that these goods ordered were paid for but not delivered,” the auditor reported.

Discrepancies in what was needed and what was purchased were also pointed out.

“The data for purchases showed that 100 half inch and 100 three quarter inch brass stopcocks were bought for the period April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011. These small fittings are used mainly in conducting the core business function. Amounts bought are out of line with activity since approximately 1,500 services are required annually. This action would have contributed to material shortages and delays in completing tasks,” the auditor reported.

Other deficiencies observed were: * Contract files were not documented in such a way that all decisions, approvals and justifications are clearly evidenced. * Potable water pipes are sourced and stored at the Belle without protective end cap plugs or wrappings in the open environment. When these pipes are exposed to the elements, they lose their colour and the interior becomes brittle and disintegrates. * Adequate levels of materials were not always kept in stock for the daily functioning of work crews. * Purchase requisitions and local purchase orders in a number of instances were not prepared to the placing of orders. * There is no stored ledger showing continuous balances for each item in stock. No proper records in the issuance of materials are documented by the storekeeper. * The two inch and four inch water meters currently in stock carry an extra lip and do not meet specifications. The extra lip has to be cut off to facilitate meter instillations. These meters are transported to BWA’s Workshop at Bowmanston for the extra lip to be cut off. This is an additional cost to the authority that could be avoided by the purchase of meters without the lip. * Materials are ordered when stocks are depleted resulting in long waiting times. * Pricing errors were acknowledged in the inventory system. The pricing errors were so prevalent that no reliance could be placed on the unit cost information. For the financial year 2011 inventory could not be verified by the Authority’s auditors. * Containers used at the Belle for storage are not properly maintained. They have no ventilation and are extremely hot and stuffy. Materials were stored in an unorganised manner; that is, stacked on the floor, placed loose on shelves in opened areas. * Plumbing materials issued from the main warehouse are recorded as a transfer of stock. Materials are recorded as deductions when the plumber submits the job card showing materials used. These cards are not submitted on a timely basis. As a result, the inventory management system was not capturing inventory levels in a real time basis, making it impossible to determine stock levels. Job cards from 2009 were reaching the inventory section for processing in 2011. * Generally, at the Belle, inventory is not adequately safeguarded, and access to stores is not restricted. There is a security guard stationed at the Belle. However, the vast area of the Belle cannot be adequately policed by one guard. (DB)

2 Responses to $800,000 wasted on goods

  1. Michael Goddard August 16, 2012 at 6:11 am

    If a private company was run in this manner it would go out of business very quickly. Given the normal Bajan attitude of being kind and not too critical I can only imagine the real situation on the ground to be MUCH WORSE than described in the audit report. It may not say so explicitly but the implication is clear. Gross mis management, lack of any controls and wastage or even theft is rampant. All this is paid for by taxpayer money. I see this as a strong case for privatization of the water delivery business. BWA should be downsized to a regulatory role to ensure standards and quality are met. But the day job of pumping, distributing, billing and maintenance of the system should be performed by a private business with the right incentives. Surely such a system with good regulations would conserve precious water, save taxpayer money and ensure a better service level to water customers. Its about time our politicians get serious and fix this.

  2. Tony Webster August 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Agreed. I also think it is a fair bet that water rates could actually come down. And the consumers’ interets would be protected by the F.T.C….and the private Company’s profits would be subject to corporation tax.

    There is absolutely no reason why we cannot proceed to new models of managing those aspects of “public needs” (state monopolies). All we need is a couple of folks in the Cabinet Office, with both backbones and guts.

    A peripheral but very important issue, is the moribund Barbados Stock Exchange. I for one would snap up a few shares in Barbados Waterworks Inc; Barbados Transport Inc; in Barbados Television Inc; GAIA Inc”- and even in “Barbados Petroleum Inmporting and Distribution Inc”. Thus a win-win all around. My only proviso being that Government’s retained interest – which I very much support- be limited to 49.99%
    Hold my brreath, you say?


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