AWAS budget in 2019 over three times more than projected

NAO audit notices flaws in service agreements

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The budget for the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) had to be augmented from the projected €2.7 million. In 2019 the agency’s budget was augmented to €10 million.

This was revealed from the National Audit Office report for 2019. In the audit, it was noted that although the budget increase is related to the influx of migrants, lack of control in expenditure was observed.

AWAS administers seven centres, namely Dar is-Sliem, Dar il-Liedna, Marsa Open Centre, Ħal Far Tent Village, Ħal Far Family Open Centre, Ħal Far Open Centre and the Initial Reception Centre. The agency provides information programmes related to employment, housing, health, welfare and education to asylum seekers.

The NAO main focus of the audit was to verify whether the purchasing procedures adopted by AWAS followed public procurement regulations and an assessment on the level of existing internal controls over payments effected in 2019.

Extension to the Contracts for Security Services not in line with the Regulations

The report revealed that contracts that totalled €3,062,5144 did not follow the procedure dictated by the Department of Contracts (DC).

According to the NAO report, the agreements with the companies providing security services at AWAS facilities expired in January 2018. The Agency extended the agreement with the contractors till the end of 2018 without seeking approval by the Department of Contracts. In 2018, AWAS paid the three service providers in question an aggregate of €898,2623 without a formal agreement.

In 2019 AWAS, a new tender for security services was not yet awarded. The agency obtained the necessary approvals from DC to commence negotiations with the three companies. The expenditure was estimated to amount €2,139,877 (VATexcl.).

However, the invoices presented by the companies totalled €3,062,5144. An excess of €537,459 from the cost approved by DC.

No Documentation on the Procurement of Medical Services 

In 2019, AWAS paid a medical service company €107,300 for its medical services, a further €32,632 were invoiced. However, the audit revealed that no service agreements could be found regarding the company’s engagement.

Control Issues Weaknesses in the Administration of Petty Cash 

The NAO report noticed lack of control when it comes to petty cash. The audit advised that costs could be reduced if tenders were issued for the supply of goods used on a regular basis.

Control is also required on mobile phone bills the Audit Office recommended. The audit revealed instances of double billing by the phone providers were not contested.

The NAO main focus of the audit was to verify whether the purchasing procedures adopted by AWAS followed public procurement regulations and an assessment on the level of existing internal controls over payments effected in 2019.