Parliamentarians cite overpayment to contractors, breaches by GECOM, Police, GPHC,
Taxpayers’ money continues to be spent in breach of the law, a group of Parliamentarians looking at the management of public finances has found, and the opposition feels the non establishment of a Public Procurement Commission adds to the lack of transparency and accountability.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), comprising Parliamentarians of the governing and opposition parties, have completed their assessment of public spending for the years 2007 and 2008.
They say that their concerns about breaches in financial regulations then, continue today.
Volda Lawrence of the main opposition PNCR chairs the PAC. She said that for 2007, the Committee expressed concerns in 13 areas, while there were 14 areas of concern for 2008.
“These concerns which adversely affected the financial management system in those years still exist to date,” she said in the National Assembly yesterday.
However, she said there has been some improvement and change in attitude by accounting officers.
A major concern Lawrence cited is the non-establishment of the Public Procurement Commission, which she said is provided for in nine articles of the constitution.
She noted that the National Procurement Act provides for specific functions of the Public Procurement Commission.
Lawrence said that the PAC is mandated to submit names of nominees for the Commission to National Assembly, but has been unable to do so since the government has not suggested its nominees.
“This delay has hampered the effective scrutiny and transparency of the procurement of goods and services and the execution of works to promote fair competition among suppliers and contractors. More so it hampers transparency in the procurement process,” Lawrence declared.
The constitution provides for the Commission to comprise persons of various professions and Lawrence said that the PNC submitted its names since 2003, with two replacements due to death.
Member of the Public Accounts Committee, Lance Carberry said that the ruling PPP had submitted its names but when those names were to be considered, the ruling party said that it was withdrawing them and would submit a new list. That new list was submitted and then withdrawn.
Donald Ramotar of the ruling PPP, said the fact is that in order to accelerate the work, the PPP, being the majority party in Parliament, suggested that it submit three nominees and the PNC would submit two nominees.
However, Ramotar said this did not find favour with the PNC.
Lawrence expressed hope that the Commission could be established before the current Parliament is dissolved to make way for elections later this year.
“While the appointment of a Public Procurement Commission now will be equivalent to closing the stable gates after the horses have bolted, and would not correct the lack of scrutiny and transparency which occurred during this Parliament, it may guarantee transparency during any future government,” Lawrence stated.
Among the breaches to financial regulations Lawrence cited was the matter of over payment to contractors by ministries and regions. She said that in many of projects allocated to contractors, payments are made, or are supposed to be made, on a certification of completion.
On inspection of the projects, however, Lawrence said it has been noted that there has been non-adherence to specifications.
For example, in the construction of doctor’s quarters at Charity and a medical clinic in Pomeroon, she said there were changes in the quality and quantity of materials used. She said doors were missing, floors were not completed and grill work was not in place, yet a certificate of completion was issued.
Lawrence lamented that the money is not easily recouped because contractors have already been paid based on the “so called” certification of completion issued by Regions and Ministries.
The PAC has recommended that officers and consultants who affixed their signatures to certificates of completion in which over payments are found should be sanctioned or surcharged where necessary.
Lawrence said that the Committee has expressed concern over the possible collusion between contractors and officials of agencies. As a result, the PAC has recommend that legal action be taken where necessary and that regional officials make log make entries when visiting projects with a view to having records that could be used for audit verifications.
Non-clearance of advances was another issue cited by the PAC. It feels the Accountant General’s office is unable to keep track of the clearance of conference advances to public officials in a timely manner and this reflects negatively on the consolidated funds.
She said that there continues to be large un-cleared advances and that many of these are for persons who may have exited the system or who are deceased.
The Committee noted several agencies which continue to have not cleared advances. In Region Nine, she said the matter has been ignored. She said the amount in question is $7.1 million, paid out to regional executive officers, members of the Regional Democratic Council, the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force as advances.
Despite several promises to have these advance cleared, to date this has not occurred, Lawrence pointed out.
She also pointed out that breaches by the Guyana Police Force.
According to Lawrence, only this week, she had cause to write the Commissioner of Police regarding the non-submission of reports concerning a number of issues with respect to loss of public property, amounting to $75.8 million for matters going as far back as 1993.
The PAC has stated that where discrepancies have been noted, measures should be instituted to avoid recurrences, but unless the Police provide requisite reports, matters of this nature would not be addressed.
Regarding subvention agencies, Lawrence said the list of these agencies breaking the law is “inexhaustible.”
She said it is alarming that at each presentation of the PAC report, this concern is addressed, but the subvention agencies continue to default in provision financial statements. In these cases, she said it is difficult to ascertain accountability and transparency for the appropriations.
Lawrence pointed out that the National Trust has never submitted financial statements since its establishment.
In addition, she said the state planning secretariat, which ought to have been dissolved several years ago, continues to exist and receive a subvention, but has not submitted a report since 1991.
The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is also guilty of not submitting financial statements since its establishment in 1999.
She said that the Corporation by not returning revenues generated to the consolidated fund is in clear violation the law, which states that “all public monies raised or received by the government shall be credited fully and promptly to the consolidated fund.”
While the PAC has reported and spoken of this breach of the law, the hospital continues to flout the regulation without any sanction being imposed.
Regarding the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) the PAC said there is a “blatant breach” of financial regulations, including the Commission’s alleged interference with the work of the accounting officer. The PAC is preparing a special report on GECOM.
Meanwhile, the PAC has concluded its work regarding public spending in 2009 and is looking to table that report before the end of the Ninth Parliament.
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