Pedro staff in fuel scandal

| 08/02/2009


(CNS): Following the emergence of irregularities regarding the Pedro St James fuel account at the Texaco Gas station in Savannah, the Auditor General’s Office has undertaken an investigation and found that the fuel purchased may not have all been above board. In a special report Auditor General Dan Duguay reveals that gas purchased by staff, and in particular the general manager, may not all have been used for official business.

According to the report, there was an increase in fuel charges of 177% between the end of 2003 through to 2006. Even allowing for the increase in the cost of gas, the auditor general found the increase excessive and stated that inflation alone was not responsible for the significant increase in costs.

Following the destruction of Pedro’s truck in 2004, employees were allowed to charge fuel for their own personal vehicles on the basis that they were using them for Pedro business. As a result the average fuel cost went from $244 per month to $677 a month over a three year period. In his report Duguay indicated that the change in policy to allow staff to charge their fuel costs to their own cars was done without adequate policies or controls to monitor how fuel was being used and charged.

“The process was conducted in a haphazard manner with employees in some instances being given only verbal approval to charge gas and not being required to provide any formal documentation or identification other than a signature at the gas station,” the report states.

Duguay says that the sum in question is $18,513, and although not a significant amount in terms of overall government spending it is still public money that may have been misappropriated. The AG noted that it is the mismanagement of the funds that is the issue, which is something he says the public needs to know about.

“The reason why we decided to make this report public by sending it to the Legislative Assembly is because we believe all public expenditure should be scrutinized and it is important that the management of public funds is improved upon,” Duguay told CNS. “It is not a large amount but it is an example of how things can be mismanaged and we are trying to emphasis better controls.”

The decision to investigate the matter came as a result of the CEO of the Tourism Attraction Board (TAB) discovering the irregularities in the fuel system during a budget review, after whichthe system was stopped in May 2007.

The report notes that in many cases the signatures were unreadable, making it impossible to tell who had purchased the fuel. Over the period investigated Duguay found that 52% of the fuel charges had been made by Carson Ebanks, Pedro’s general manager, 32% was charged by illegible signatures, and the remaining 16% by 8 other named members of staff.

“Granting employees permission to charge fuel to a company account with the only requirement being a signature opens up the considerable risk of misappropriations,” Duguay states in the report. He notes that at the very least the minimum requirement should have been printed names as well as registration numbers of the vehicles being fuelled up.

“Being able to use the PSJ charge account without formal identification to acquire gas for private vehicles presented opportunities for persons not employed at PSJ to use the account,” Duguay wrote.

He explained that managers of government companies are responsible for government resources. It is their job to prevent waste and account for all spending. However, according to Duguay’s report, in this case not only did the general manager not do that with regard to the fuel account, he himself was using the account when he was already entitled to a fuel allowance as a result of his position. Duguay found that Ebanks had not taken the fuel allowance but used the Texaco company account instead. This resulted in him receiving almost $4,000 worth of fuel above the amount he would have received if he had used his fuel allowance as per his contract.

The AG’s reported concluded that it was unacceptable for the general manager to give verbal permission to employees to incur company expenses and to personally use the account in a way that resulted in excessive fuel expenditure. “Such excesses could have beenavoided if management at PSJ had ensured that an appropriate system of internal controls was in operation,” Duguay stated.

CNS contacted the TAB, which oversees Pedro’s, and was informed that the board chair had only just received the final report and was assessing its findings and was hoping to provide comment sometime on Monday afternoon.

To read the full report go to www.gov.ky

 

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Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I thought it was just a perk of having a government vehicle, better check every government vehicle including the Police.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh come on, you really think that is the only one? Just the tip of the iceberg! Hundreds of Government employees are allowed to drive around Grand Cayman in “official” vehicles on personal business every day. Management simply doesn’t have the cojones to deal with it!

    • A Concerned Caymanian says:

      So True! For years I have questioned this practice why can’t they park the vehicles at their Work Place  after their working hours and cut town on their excessive use and wear & Tear on the Vehicles that we all pay for.!!!!!!

      The Leader of Goverment Business speaks about economy and everyone needs to live within their means Well  I SAY LET GOVERMENT START FIRST!!!!!. Start parking those free vehicles and let’s hear about how much GOVERMENT has saved on GAS and other expenses associated with the Vehicles.

      For too long there has been a free ride! It needs to stop NOW!!!!!

      If the Politicians expect people to vote for them! Then this practice and other wastefull ones need to stop NOW!!!!!!!

       

  3. Anonymous says:

    Scandal?  Guess Cayman Brac has been way ahead of its time because that "scandal" has been happening on this island for years!!! The misuse of government vechicals and expense accounts run rampant.  All you have to do is note were these vechicals are sometimes seen and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude they are not being used for government business or for the purpose for WHICH or WHO they were purchased.