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Financial accountability office understaffed

Paula Cox

An office set up four years ago to strengthen financial accountability in government has only half the staff it needs, it has been revealed.

And a suitable candidate to lead the Office of Project Management and Procurement (OPMP) has yet to be found, despite the job being advertised twice and having a salary of more than $100,000 a year.

A statement released by the unit under new public access to information requirements shows that it should have eight employees but lacks a director and is understaffed. Asked about the situation, a government spokesman told The Royal Gazette: “There are eight positions in the Office of Project Management and Procurement, of which four are filled.

“They are the contracts and compliance manager, the senior project manager, the procurement manager and an administrative assistant.

“The position of director is currently vacant and has been advertised twice. We are looking for the right person who will work to ensure the OPMP fulfils its mission to provide oversight and guidance to public authorities and implement the soon-to-be released code of practice on procurement and project management.

“The contracts and compliance manager is acting as director while the position is being recruited.”

The spokesman said the director, once recruited, would assess the skills needed to “assist the department and the managers to perform their oversight and audit functions”.

He added: “As a result, the recruitment of the procurement operations analyst, the procurement systems officer and the contracts and compliance officer will be completed after a director has been appointed.”

The OPMP was created under former Premier Paula Cox under the Good Governance Act 2011 and falls within the remit of the Cabinet Office.

Michael Dunkley told parliament earlier this year, in reference to the office being set up under the Progressive Labour Party, that Ms Cox “had to do something … because those guys on that side were pilfering”. The Premier withdrew the word “pilfering” but questioned what had happened to “missing assets”.

The office’s website says it “provides oversight and guidance to government departments and ministries regarding project management and procurement activities to ensure fairness, transparency and consistency in awards of contracts and adherence to applicable rules and industry best practices”.

The statement the OPMP released under Pati is a requirement of the new legislation, one which all public authorities must adhere to.

Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez urged those at a public meeting on Pati on Monday evening to visit her office’s website and look at all 200-plus information statements.

The statements provide details of the structure and organisation of the authorities, as well as the legislation governing them, records held and policies used to make decisions.