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Auditor’s Report Called “Sloppy”

Urban Renewal officials disputed claims of fraud made by the auditor general concerning its Small Homes Repair Programme yesterday.

At a press conference held at Urban Renewal’s headquarters, Co-chair of Urban Renewal Algernon Allen challenged the report’s call for “transparency and due diligence,” stating that the audit report holds “erroneous statements.”

Mr. Allen said “despite assurances to review, amend, and correct the report,” the auditor general has failed to address these errors.

Urban Renewal Co-chair Cynthia Mother Pratt said her integrity, along with Mr. Allen’s, has been questioned as a result of the auditor’s report.

“It is inconceivable that a report on Urban Renewal is finalized without interviewing the architect of the Urban Renewal Programme, the right honourable prime minister, the minister with responsibility for Urban Renewal, the honourable deputy prime minister, and the sitting co-chairs of the Urban Renewal Commission,” Mr. Allen said.

He added, “This signals a clear abdication of the auditor general’s responsibility to pursue truth and fact. The question must then be asked, what is the true motive behind the audit report?”

The small homes repair programme spearheaded by Urban Renewal was designed in 2013 to repair small homes in the inner city.
According to Mr. Allen, the programme has done its fair share in bringing hope to the hopeless.

“It is insulting to us as co-chairs, mother and I, that this report has been finalized without the auditor general’s office having called us once asking for a single statement, a single clarification, a single input. That speaks of work that was shoddily done,” he said.

However, the auditor general’s office issued a report of a recent audit performed on the programme that it said reveals that contractors were not required to have all-risk insurance.

The report further states a number of inconsistencies including payment for work that was not completed or started and the absence of a bidding process for contracts.

Mrs. Pratt, who deemed herself “a voice for the poor,” said despite the negativity, the programme will continue to help thousands of Bahamians who are in need.

“The statement said they investigated 75 homes. Well, we did over 300. You found several of them inadequate. What about the rest? Why didn’t they say what they found with the rest?” Mrs. Pratt said.

“It is so unfair because what is happening here is that Urban Renewal is being used as their football and the poor people are caught in the middle. They will do anything to destroy Urban Renewal because it is touching the lives of the poor,” she added.

The audit report has also led to calls from the Free National Movement for the Public Accounts Committee to hold a thorough investigation of the report’s claims.

The FNM also said those who are found to be in the wrong should be faced with criminal charges.

Mr. Allen noted that both Leader of the FNM Dr. Hubert Minnis and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Hubert Chipman pledged their full support to the small homes repair programme.

He added that Dr. Minnis’ constituency Killarney has benefited greatly from the onset of this programme.

“The leader of the opposition received a total of 21 house repairs in Killarney, that number being amongst the highest number of house repairs conducted for that period. In fact, one of his constituents that he nominated for assistance now lives in a brand new home constructed by Urban Renewal,” Mr. Allen said.

Deputy Director of Urban Renewal Gregory Butler informed the press that those contractors who did not complete their work properly have been dropped, and those contractors who have outstanding work “may face legal action.”

Mr. Allen said that he and Mrs. Pratt accept recommendations for improvement.

However, they both maintain that the report was “ill-advised.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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