Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff

Bermuda: Millions paid out in error during COVID outbreak

Millions of Bermudans have been paid out in error during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, says the government.

According to reports from that country, the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says administrative errors caused more than three million US dollars to be paid out in unemployment benefit payments during the COVID, to people who were working. 

“There were internal control weaknesses and poor vetting procedures when the payments were made following the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020,” PAC said.

When the island went into complete lockdown, over ten thousand people were without work. And as an emergency measure, the government paid out US$500 a week to those made redundant by the pandemic for a maximum of 12 weeks. 

The emergency relief scheme ended up costing the taxpayer US$60 million, including US$3.5 million in overpayments, reports said.

The Chairman of PAC Cole Simons, based its findings on reports filed by the Auditor-General. Several civil servants from various ministries including finance were interviewed in the process.

The committee also interviewed many civil servants from the Ministries of Finance and Labour. 

“Due to the urgent need to provide relief to persons suffering economic hardship, the Ministry of Finance accepted the risk and decided to commence processing, approval, and payment of the UEB [unemployment benefit] despite internal control weaknesses. It was later revealed that some overpayments occurred, mainly because applicants had subsequently found employment and did not report their new employment status”, the report said

Some claimant files were incomplete and the report said that there was no evidence to show that a contract to provide an unemployment database was put out to tender. 

“The Ministry of Finance didn’t delegate authority or provide any legislated instrument which authorized the Minister of Finance to delegate authority to execute his powers or furnish finance officers the authorization to execute making unemployment benefit payments The Ministry of Finance was unable to produce formal procedures on payment instructions and the PAC was unable to confirm the number of times the Ministry of Finance directed sums of money to be paid to individuals with or without consulting the Director of Workforce Development. It was determined that the application vetting process was not robust and led to numerous payment errors, duplicate payments and delays,” the report said. 


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