By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
AUDITOR General Terrence Bastian yesterday said his department stands by its audit of Urban Renewal’s Small Home Repairs programme in light of a contradictory independent report commissioned by the government.
Mr Bastian said the technical report ordered by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip “Brave” Davis did not change his report’s recommendations concerning the project, adding that he did not want to get into a back and forth over the disputed findings.
“Our report remains,” he said. “That’s what our findings were. Obviously our report is what we stand by.”
Mr Bastian’s audit covers the period of July 1, 2012 to September 30, 2014, and surveyed a sample of 75 homes.
On-site inspections, that determined 12 homes were incomplete, were conducted between October and November 2014.
The draft audit was leaked to the media in April before it was tabled in the House of Assembly.
On Wednesday, Mr Davis tabled a second report – the technical evaluation report commissioned on phase one of the programme – that was completed in June.
The independent report refers only to the technical issues raised in the auditor general’s report, and does not address other concerns raised by Mr Bastian, such as the revelation that contracts worth more than $10,000 were issued to contractors without proof of ministerial approval.
Mr Bastian also found that contractors were paid more than $100,000 for work that was not completed or done.
The new report disputes Mr Bastian’s findings that 12 homes in the project were incomplete, and that value for money could not be determined.
The report revealed that only two of the 12 homes identified did not receive value for money; however, the report did not make a determination on three of those homes because there was no opportunity to conduct an inspection in two homes, and one home was still unfinished.
In one instance, it was revealed that auditors assessed the wrong home in Englerston, incorrectly stating that the $30,000 contract was not executed when in fact the home was completely rebuilt with full value for money achieved.
While the technical review disputed the audit’s findings concerning incomplete homes, it also shared a number of the audit’s recommendations such as the strict enforcement of proper construction supervision during repair work and a standardized system of payment.
It acknowledged that three of the 12 homes were incomplete based on the scope of works but had received certificates of completion, two of which in December 2013.
The technical report called for the government to immediately establish a litany of controls to increase oversight of the project’s operational management and payment system.
It also pointed to a lack of a standardised system for classifying homes by necessary repairs, which it said would provide a better method for assigning a budget for contracted works.
In an interview with The Tribune last week, Mr Bastian said the government’s decision to challenge his department’s report into Urban Renewal with an independent review was surprising and unprecedented.
However, Mr Davis told parliamentarians on Wednesday that the original audit was conducted by accountants, and its findings should be tested by experts in the field of construction.
The technical report also noted that seven of the 12 homes identified did not have a completed scope of works on file, and in these instances, estimates from the contractor were used to conduct the assessments. Another seven homes did not have an inspector listed on file.
The proper management of documents was among the recommendations outlined in the audit report.