THE Ministry of Economy yesterday made their presentation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the audit findings for the years 2014 and 2015 in relation to the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The Office of the Auditor-General had highlighted numerous anomalies in the management of government quarters including quarters' records and had concluded: "There is a lack of control in the management of quarters which may hinder the efficiency and effectiveness of the office accommodation in carrying out its responsibilities with respect to government quarters."
In response the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Economy, Makereta Konrote, said in January 2016 after the reorganisation of the PSC the office accommodation and government housing department of the PSC was transferred to the Ministry of Economy.
"And by way of background a total of 1110 government quarters are now managed by construction implementation unit (CIU)," she said.
The CIU was a new unit which now managed all issues relating to government quarters.
"So noting all the issues in relation to these the ministry undertook a diagnostic assessment to identify and determine the efficiency of the systems and processes which was followed by PSC then.
"And with the identification of gaps we have worked to ensure that we make improvements to the systems and processes to ensure overall accountability is strengthened going forward," Ms Konrote said.
She said on the issue of lack of control in the management of government quarters they had since implemented measures, including putting in place a records management system where they were able to track all maintenance works carried out and ensured that the details of the scope of works, contracts, contractors, value of work put in place, project duration and payment details were captured.
"So this information, including the site inspection report undertaken by the unit, are then filed systematically.
"We have also established a complaints register maintained by the CIU to ensure that complaints from tenants are action within reasonable time.
"The CIU has also allocated staff to carry out monthly reconciliation of occupancy and rent deductions for both quarters rented out at market rates as well as those rented out at subsidised rates," Ms Konrote said.
She said they were working closely with divisional commissioners to ensure that quarterly returns on rents were received and their officers in the divisions would notify the Suva office of any issues to be addressed in respect of quarters.
Ms Konrote said out of the 1110 quarters Fiji-wide, the 145 quarters in Suva had a 98-per cent occupancy and generated a monthly rental of about $148,000, annually collecting around $1.8 million.
"So in the last financial year a sum of $4m was remitted to the government consolidated fund account as profits transferred from the government quarters trading and manufacturing account (TMA).
Concerns raised by Opposition members of the PAC on the role of the new unit CIU and whether members of the CIU were properly qualified to carry out the work of overseeing and supervising the works on quarters were put to rest by PS Konrote and a senior accounts officer of the ministry.
The PAC was chaired by deputy chairman Mohammed Dean, with Government member Howard Politini and Opposition member Aseri Radrodro and alternate Opposition member Jiosefa Dulakiverata with teams from the Ministry of Economy and OAG also in attendance.