Jun 23, 2009 Editorial
The Auditor General has once more revealed what can only be termed blatant disregard for accounting procedures and for the rule of law. The most damning comment to come out in the wake of the report has been the findings on the award of contracts to the local drug manufacturing company.
The law states that sums from the public treasury over a certain sum for certain contracts must go to the Central Tender Board. However, the Auditor General has unearthed the splitting of contracts to avoid going to the Central Tender Board. This is corruption at its worst.
For the past two years the Auditor General has been reporting on this, but it continues. There is blatant disregard for the procedures and utter disrespect for the people of Guyana. The least one could have expected would have been some effort to curb the practice in light of the exposure.
This past week, the Parliamentary sub-committee called in the officials of the Georgetown Public Hospital and the Ministry of Health to account for certain disbursements ostensibly for the purchase of drugs from the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC).
Of major focus was the Cabinet ‘No Objection’ to contracts. A piece of correspondence dated May 7, 2009, indicated that there was a Cabinet ‘No Objection’ for the procurement of drugs worth US$76,681 ($15.3 M). The National Procurement and Tender Board by way of a note stated that once the contract was awarded between the Ministry of Health and the New GPC, the sheet should be returned to the tender board. This was not done.
Two weeks later there was again a Cabinet ‘No Objection’ for an award of US$2,681,293 ($536 million). This should have been the preserve of the Central Tender Board but once more there is this disregard.
Last year, when this was brought to the attention of the Minister of Health, he acknowledged that there were mistakes in the contracts and that having taken note of the Auditor General such mistakes would be corrected in light of the new legislation. Nothing has happened and the lawlessness continues under the guise of administrative instructions. Mr. Winston Murray, a member of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, stated that Cabinet did not have the authority to waive the tender process that is outlined in the law.
He is correct. Excuses that the new law allows for a waiver of the tender process cannot hold water because it does not. “Public tendering is mandatory under the law and for such tendering an invitation to tender must be had,” Murray said.
Murray also said that a provision in the law for selective tendering, given complexity or specialized nature, is available only from a limited number of suppliers but he emphasized that such suppliers shall be invited to submit.
Now this was made clear since last year, but the government continues the process of operating outside the regulation. This is clearly a total disregard for the law and for conventions.
We are still at a loss to understand why the government still refuses to pass the Lotto Funds through the Consolidated Fund. This was mandatory and for years the various Opposition Members of Parliament have been making this case. Whatever they say has been falling on deaf ears because the government simply ignores any argument made for the upholding of the law.
There is a lot wrong here. It is small wonder that there is so much fraud in government ministries and departments because the disregard for the law allows these departments to do whatever they wish. Queries are then answered either with an apology and a promise to adhere to the law, or with basic silence as if to say to the public that it is none of your business.
In some countries, there would be a clamouring for prosecution of those who breach the law, but in Guyana there is a stony silence on the part of the majority of those who are supposed to look after the interest of the nation.
The society should remain silent no longer. It is their money that is being spent in so cavalier a manner. The government must be made to account for its indiscretion.
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