Auditor General probing “most controversial” projects
- Drug supply contracts, Amaila Falls road, Hope Canal on the radar
- Overpayment of contractors remains major problem
Some of the most controversial government contracts are being investigated, Auditor General Deodat Sharma said yesterday, as he presented his audited report on the Public Accounts of Guyana, including the accounts of Ministries, Departments and Regions for the Fiscal Year which ended December 31, 2011, to Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman.
The Speaker stated that it was a “travesty” that no member of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, which is tasked with reviewing the report, was present at the ceremony. The report will be tabled in the National Assembly when the House comes out of recess in mid-October.
While he could not give details about the report, Sharma said that an ongoing problem is overpayment to contractors.
But apart from the report, Sharma said that his office is looking into a number of projects.
His department is currently finalizing a report on drug supply contracts, which have generated much debate. He said that the report would be laid in the National Assembly soon.
Among the other projects he intends to probe are the Amaila Falls road project, which is costing taxpayers over US$15 million, and the Hope Canal on the East Coast of Demerara.
Sharma said that he was not prompted by anyone to carry out investigations into these ventures, but was doing so because he is responsible for auditing all public projects.
In his 2010 report, Sharma had stated that a sum of $1.252 billion was paid to New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited on the basis of sole sourcing approved by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and not by competitive bidding, as required under the Procurement Act (2003). The transactions with the firm were for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies.
The Procurement Act No.8 of 2003 makes provision for the regulation of the procurement of goods, services and the execution of works, the promotion of competition among suppliers and contractors, and the promotion of fairness and transparency in the procurement process.
The government had initially handed the US$15.4 million contract to build roads to Amaila Falls to Synergy Holdings Inc., under Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall. However, the government revoked the contract this year and awarded sections of the road to various contractors.
The Hope Canal, which is being dug to serve as the main drainage facility for the East Demerara Water Conservancy, is 75 percent complete and some $2 billion has already been spent, the Government Information Agency stated last week.
The Auditor General’s office has as one of its main goals the promotion of good governance including openness, transparency and improved public accountability.
Sharma said that with funding of US$325,000 from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Auditor General’s Department is being improved.
The funding is being used to help carry out forensic audits and fraud investigations. Currently, the Auditor General is looking into possible fraud at the Deeds Registry and at the Supreme Court. In addition, Sharma said that the Audit Office is working the Guyana Police Force to conclude the fraud probe at the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown.
Speaker Trotman commended Sharma for bringing audits of the country’s public accounts up to date, from a position where audits were not done, to the accounts lagging years behind, to the point where they are now being presented before the deadline of September 30.
Present at the handing over ceremony were Gino Persaud, President of the Transparent Institute of Guyana, and Anand Harrilall of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
With the public accounts now up to date, Sharma said that he would be able to concentrate on auditing accounts of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and corporations.