The news last night that an employee of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) has been charged with theft of money belonging to the Crown, comes even as the Auditor General’s Report for 2016 indicates that the revenue collection agency is unable to account for millions of dollars.
The Report, which examined BRA activities for the financial period April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 and was laid in Parliament in April 2017, pointed to a lack of oversight at the BRA and noted that the Auditor General’s Office was unable to verify amounts reported across several categories of the BRA financial statements, as there was a lack of documentation to support the figures.
Among these included a failure to account for $4,327,054 allocated to the BRA by the Ministry of Finance; $1,257,551.17 in Licensing Revenue; $9,537,941 in Highway Revenue and $57,687,529 in property taxes.
With respect to the Highway Revenue, BRA recorded this receivable at $1,226. However, schedules were submitted to the Audit for $9,539,167 and no explanation was given by the BRA for the failure to account for the difference of $9,537,941.
The Report also highlighted concerns about the BRA’s Refunds bank account, of which all funds represent amounts owed to taxpayers.
It outlined, “The Accountant General transferred a total of $190,067,773.52 to the Refunds bank account during 2015-2016. These funds were requested by the Authority. However, the Authority did not provide the audit with the subsidiary records to indicate the details of the application of the funds requested from the Treasury.”
“The failure to substantiate the amounts requested for refunds is a breach of internal controls and exposed the account to the risk of being misused.”
Additionally, there was no explanation provided for the difference of $749,578.42 between totals on the BRA’s listings of total unpresented cheques ($26,751,789.51) versus uncleared cheques ($26,002,211.09). The Auditor General noted that these figures should be the same.
Accordingly, the Report recommended that a detailed list or subsidiary ledger of the names and amounts due to each taxpayer should be provided to allow for audit verification since all funds in the Refunds bank account represent amounts owed to taxpayers.
It also highlighted that this account should only be used for its intended purpose.
The Report further recommended, “The Authority should properly maintain the bank accounts and ensure that all related transactions are properly accounted for, so as to avoid the compromisation of revenues collected, or the setting aside of Government funds to cover tax refunds.”