“Agro-Park Audit Should Interest Auditor General & Contractor General” - Hutchinson

Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, JC Hutchinson, is again expressing concern regarding the management and operations of Agro-Parks across the island, in the wake of an internal audit which he says corroborates the alarm he has been raising over the past several months.

Mr. Hutchinson says he is not entirely surprised that the August audit of Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC), the entity responsible for the establishment and management of the agro-parks, has unearthed disturbing findings of questionable spending amounting to millions of dollars.

Mr. Hutchinson went on assert that the fiasco that has now been unveiled should concern the auditor general as a forensic audit may be warranted, and should also be of interest to the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) as well given the questionable procurement and contracting issues involved.

The Opposition Spokesman said: “The Opposition has been concerned about the management and operation of the agro-parks since becoming aware of the significant losses incurred by farmers at the Plantain Garden River facility and the lacklustre response of the Ministry and its implementing agency – AIC.  In this instance, I am not only disturbed by the minister’s failure to respond to the alarming findings of the audit, but by the absence of any credible and compelling indication on the part of AIC or the ministry itself, as to how internal controls will be strengthened and how its management systems will be enhanced in averting any further incidence of questionable spending.  The minister and the entities under his watch have a duty to ensure that taxpayers get value for money and we are holding them to account.” 

Mr. Hutchinson continued: “The existing gaps in management and supervision of the operations of the agro-parks cannot be allowed to persist as the overall project is too important to the country’s development and push for economic growth.  In fact, the under-performance of the agro-parks and general failure to meet projections thus far, is directly attributable to the poor state of management and supervision of the project on the part of AIC and the ministry.”