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Audit Report Reveals Concerns Over Government's Handling of Medical Assistance Grants in the British Virgin Islands

Audit Report Reveals Concerns Over Government's Handling of Medical Assistance Grants in the British Virgin Islands

Concerns have been raised over the government's decision to pay for cosmetic medical expenses for a resident several years ago, a disclosure made in an audit report released by the Internal Audit Department on assistance grants issued by the Andrew Fahie-led government between January 2019 and May 2022.
The audit found that some requests for assistance with medical expenses were not supported by evidence from the attending physician, with one instance showing an individual receiving assistance for breast reduction surgery without any evidence of a medical diagnosis or referral.

The report also revealed that a majority of applications reviewed were incomplete, missing vital information such as income levels, and information regarding assistance received from other governmental agencies.

Additionally, the report found that the Assistance Grant Programme at the House of Assembly lacked appropriate objectives, control, and structure, leading to concerns that it was an unorganized welfare program.

The audit also showed that a significant number of applications were awarded based on a letter or the House of Assembly's application stating the amount required, rather than on the merit of the application.

The report concluded that the program lacked transparency and accountability, leading to its eventual discontinuation, with social assistance grants being moved to the Social Development Department after the release of the Commission Inquiry (COI) report.

Some commentators have expressed concern over the decision to pay for cosmetic medical expenses, with Hot Seat host Walwyn Brewley stating that he had an issue with the government paying for a breast reduction surgery if an individual did not have a medical diagnosis or referral.

The audit report highlights several issues with the government's handling of medical assistance grants, including a lack of appropriate documentation, transparency, and accountability.

The move to discontinue the program and transfer social assistance grants to the Social Development Department is a step towards addressing these concerns and ensuring that such issues do not arise in the future.
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