HEALTH Minister Dr Perry Gomez.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH Minister Dr Perry Gomez said Monday he doesn’t know when he will table long overdue audits of the Public Hospitals Authority in the House of Assembly.
Although The Tribune reported in May that several government institutions have contravened the law by failing to have audits for their institutions tabled in Parliament in accordance with various laws, the ministers responsible for those institutions have still not tabled the overdue audits.
An audit for the PHA, for instance, hasn’t been tabled in at least four years, leaving Bahamians in the dark about the financial state and operations of the institution.
The PHA Act says the accounts of the institution must be audited by an auditor appointed by the minister each year.
“Three months after the end of each financial year, the authority shall submit a copy of the audited accounts to the minister, together with a copy of any report made by the auditor,” the PHA Act says, adding: “The minister shall lay a copy of such audited accounts before each House of Parliament, together with a copy of any report made by the auditor on the accounts.”
Asked about the matter Monday, Dr Gomez said: “No update yet. I haven’t received them. I have to check with the chairman of the board.”
But when contacted by The Tribune, PHA Chairman Frank Smith said PHA audits from 2012 to 2014 were conducted, completed and sent to the minister already.
Field work for 2015 has also been completed, he said, adding that officials are still writing the report for that year.
Although Mr Smith couldn’t explain why Dr Gomez said he hasn’t received the audits, he said he doesn’t believe the law gives institutions sufficient time to do audits.
“Audits aren’t done within 30 days,” he said. “While much of the legislation governing tabling of reports give a fairly stringent timeline, in my view it is unrealistic even though it keeps you going towards something to achieve. Ninety days to complete an audit for an institution of this size? The cost to do that would be astronomical. When you look at audits, audits have to be facilitated by staff and management. You’re moving from target to target, putting in price control and measures along the way.”
Mr Smith said he is not alarmed by the failure to have the audits tabled.
“I’m not alarmed because I know audits have been completed. And we had no failed audits,” he said.
In recent years, the internal auditor for the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) as well as external auditors, Grant Thornton, HLB Galanis and Co and UHY Bain and Associates have raised red flags about operations at PHA.
The UHY Bain’s forensic audit, for instance, suggested a culture of slackness and corruption exists within the PHA.
Nonetheless, the Christie administration has not acted on the findings of these audits.
Last year Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government would have another audit into PHA conducted, suggesting his administration wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the audits that have been conducted so far.
Mr Smith said such audits examined special issues and differed in scope from the annual audits that are supposed to be tabled every year.