By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Port Department has “cleared up” the nearly $5 million in outstanding revenues highlighted by an Auditor General’s report last November, its acting Controller yesterday welcoming a follow-up assessment.
A recent Auditor General’s report, which examined the agency’s accounts over a two-year period to end-June 2016, had expressed “great concern” over “weak internal controls” and its failure to enforce the law.
The report revealed that at end-June 2016 some $3.868 million in annual fees and tariffs for services provided by the Port Department had not been collected in New Providence or the Family Islands.
And a further $921,390 in due revenues was outstanding at Potter’s Cay, with the monies due including pierage fees for mailboats and fishing vessels, plus water provided by the Port Department.
Providing an update on the Department’s response, Captain Cyril Roker told Tribune Business: “One of the biggest problems we have in this country is that there is a lot of revenue collected in the Family Islands, but it is not reported as Port revenue.
“Customs collected revenue at the Price George Dock for us. When they collect it, it is there but doesn’t go in as the Port’s. When my team came into office we recognised that, and we made amendments.
“So now whatever revenue Customs collects on behalf of the Port, it goes in as Port revenue. One of our biggest businesses in this country is foreign yacht charters. The first agency they meet is Customs, and so whatever their charter fee is, if Customs collects that it is never reported on our books. Maybe 90 per cent of the monies was there. It was not being reflected as being collected as Port revenue.”
The Auditor General’s report had noted that the world’s two leading cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, owed the Port Department some $628,284 for water supplied to them at Prince George Wharf.
Some of those debts dated back to 2010, with the cruise lines’ accounting for 86.5 per cent of the total $725,535 owed for water usage at the Bahamas’ main cruise port.
Captain Roker said: “You can’t blame the auditors because when they come in and see the books there was no document to support the revenue being collected, but it was.
“There are one or two write-offs. There was also a computer procedure that the ships have that we didn’t have. Them supposedly being delinquent in payment had nothing to do with them. They wanted to pay but we were not forwarding the receipts as we should have. Whatever was mentioned in the auditor’s report has been cleared up. We would invite them to come and do another report.”