Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday the government takes claims of irregularities in the accounts department at the magistrates court “very seriously”.
“We agreed on a plan of action to address the issue,” Bethel said.
“The matter is being addressed. I can assure you that if those allegations have a foundation, they will result in serious consequences for anybody who is involved.”
He continued, “We take them very seriously. I was appraised of the outlines of the findings but I was not given any draft or a report to look at. I never saw the report or any part of it.
“It was a discussion that was had, that was indicated to me by the competent authority that there was a finding of some wrongdoing or apparent wrongdoing and it was being addressed. And I was assured that it was being aggressively addressed.”
A recent auditor general’s report of the magistrates court revealed that it is plagued by inconsistencies including missing checks and the modification of customers’ receipts by employees.
“During the audit, the auditors were informed that several checks were reported missing by a staff member in the accounts department,” the report noted.
It added, “The checks were not found at the time of this audit and subsequently management placed stop payments on the checks. Due to negligence, the Deposit Fund Account incurred cancelation fees of $45 per check totaling $900. An investigation was undertaken by management, which resulted in management having to prepare replacement checks.”
The report continued, “It came to the auditor’s attention from a number of concerned court personnel and private bar members that defendants of the courts were being given a myriad of sentences, which included counseling as a part of a conditional discharge which necessitated remuneration.”
It also noted that customers’ receipts were being modified by employees in the accounts department.
The audit also revealed that incorrect amounts were being posted to the clients’ credit cards.
It noted there were “differences between the amounts that were paid versus the amounts posted” to the cards.
The audit recommended that management conduct a comprehensive review of clients’ payment cards to ensure that “what was paid by the client was posted to their respective payment cards”.
It stated that all discrepancies identified should be investigated and addressed accordingly.
The report was conducted during the period of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018.
The purpose of the audit was “to determine whether the accounting functions” were being performed in accordance with the Financial Administration and Audit Act 2010.