Jun 29, 2011 News
The parliamentary group looking at Government’s spending, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has discovered a callous and uncaring attitude among some civil servants in their treatment of assets – either money or items – bought with taxpayers’ money.
Chaired by PNCR Member of Parliament, Volda Lawrence, and comprising MPs from opposition and Government, the PAC looked at and reported on government accounts for the financial years ended December 31, 2007 and 2008, and found a number of questionable areas of activity of public workers in handling state assets.
The Committee found examples of poor accounting and project management by government departments; re-employment of contractors who previously delivered faulty work; and violations on regulations regarding award of contracts.
A fortnight ago, Lawrence presented the report in the House. She noted that the constitution defines public accounts of Guyana as all central and local government bodies and entities; all bodies and entities in which the State has controlling interest; and all projects funded by way of loans or grants by any foreign State or organization.
It is the duty of the PAC to examine accounts of these entities showing money granted to them by the National Assembly, and its use in meeting public expenditure. Information for review of many of these accounts was based on findings of the Auditor General. It was found that despite some State entities no longer being in existence, “… the Accountant General’s Department has still not taken steps to have the liabilities of three entities totaling $623.124 million transferred to the Public Debt, in view of the fact that the entities are no longer in existence”. The Department’s accountant advised the Committee that liabilities of one of the entities have been written off.
The PAC reported that the Consolidated Fund Bank account No. 400 was not settled since 1988 and despite attempts to reconcile monthly accounts reaching back to 1994, a proper reconciliation has still not been done.
The Committee noted an Auditor General statement that $9.933 million that is said to represent miscellaneous receipts of ministries/departments/regions as at 31 December, 2007, are understated. This is so because a number of items passed on to those entities in the name of ‘gifts’ were not valued and brought into account.
According to the PAC, the Ministry of Public Works and Communication issued a new contract to a contractor despite him producing defective work on the Demerara Harbour Bridge to Ruimveldt four-lane highway. Further, construction of that highway went beyond its extended deadline of July 9, 2006, “but liquidated damages were not deducted in keeping with the terms and conditions of the contract”. Nonetheless, another contract was signed with the same contractor on July 3, 2006, for an extension of the four-lane road.
At the end of the defects liability period for the original work on December 29, 2006, a ‘considerable’ amount of defective works had not been remedied.
It was reported that an attempt to reconcile the Guyana Defence Force salaries bank account, No. 688-306-0, revealed an unaccounted difference of $13.5 million at December 2007. “The Auditor General reported that the Central Housing and Planning Authority continued to retain unspent balances for 2008 in a special bank account in violation of the law,” the PAC stated. And despite a legal opinion of the Attorney General that the Ministry of Housing and Water was not bound statutorily to deposit excess funds into the Consolidated Fund, some Committee members insisted that in the absence of special permission, the Authority was in breach of the constitution.
The PAC found that every month the Region One administration gave 20 and three drums of fuel to Port Kaituma and Moruca respectively, to operate electricity generators for public and private individuals, but the administrators did not supervise collection of revenue and the utilization of it to buy fuel. Further, no excess money received was paid into the Consolidated Fund, in breach of the constitution.
Action by the Region Six administration gave the Committee cause for concern when it was discovered that a low-bed hauler was bought for $11.7 million, and …” was left to deteriorate in front of the premises of the Regional Administration Officer”.
PAC members saw in the Auditor General’s report that officials in Region Nine had no measures in place to have government-owned items on loan to agencies and private individuals, over the years 1995 to 2007, returned to the regional office. Additionally, “… there were several instances where items were inappropriately loaned to contractors and private individuals”.
Region Three officials were also found guilty of loaning to contractors and private persons a number of ‘valuable items’ – some since 2002 – that were not returned.
“The Committee expressed dissatisfaction that assets which were the property of the Regional Administration were loaned to private individuals and contractors to execute works for which they were paid.”
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