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Former Premier had a $10M slush fund for assistance grants — Penn

Former Premier had a $10M slush fund for assistance grants — Penn

Health Minister Marlon Penn has accused former Premier Andrew Fahie of having a more than $10 million ‘slush fund’ at his disposal when he distributed funds as part of Ministerial Assistance Grant allocations.
A slush fund is effectively a reserve of money used for illicit purposes, especially political bribery.

Penn made the allegation in the House of Assembly yesterday as lawmakers debated the Internal Audit Department’s report on Assistance Grants doled out between 2019-2022 under the Fahie-led administration.

According to Penn, the former Premier did this while ignoring Public Finance Management regulations and legislative frameworks where procurement processes are required for projects valued above $10,000.

Penn pointed to the varying amounts over the audit period disbursed by the former Premier, even as other lawmakers struggled to get funding for infrastructural works and school repairs in their communities. He argued that the evidence leaves one to conclude that “this was being used as a slush fund”.

What the report said

According to the audit report, the Premier’s Office during Fahie’s tenure expended some $10,717,262.59 under its Assistance Grants Programme.

“There was a notable increase in both budgeted amounts and expenditure within the programme when compared to prior years,” the report stated.

“Upon inquiry with the Ministry of Finance as to the reason for the significant increases in budgetary allocation for the programme, we were informed that the increase was made on the basis of direct request by the former Premier and Minister of Finance but could not provide a clear basis for the request for increase in budgetary allocation,” the report added.

The audit described those significant increases as an abuse of the budgetary process, despite Fahie’s broad budgetary powers as Finance Minister. Further, it noted that the way the increases were derived lacked proper justification and transparency and constituted an abuse of ministerial authority.

According to the findings of the audit, that programme had more than one thousand disbursements and more than 400 transactions of $10,000 and above; representing over $8 million and nearly $20,000 per disbursement.

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