Feb 19, 2012 News
State auditors working on the Ministry of Education 2010 accounts, uncovered serious discrepancies
over the ordering of $110M worth in textbooks. Systems were manipulated and almost $62M remained undelivered at the time of the audit.
The indication now is that, there was a huge racket on at the Ministry involving the ordering of textbooks.
The report is replete with instances of improper records being kept by various Ministries and regional administrations and the there were warnings by the Audit Office that the systems could be easily manipulated as a result, allowing for frauds.
It was discovered that two cheques- one for $40M and another for $70M- were drawn up on the Consolidated Fund. One was paid in May and the other on September 20, 2011 to the supplier, who was not named.
According to the report, the fact that the payments took place in the fourth and ninth months of 2011, confirms the use of a strategy to defeat the controls as set out in the government’s Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA), by the withdrawal of sums appropriated in one year and holding them for extended periods for spending in another year during the life of another Appropriation Act.
“It is even more disturbing that such a serious breach is aided and abetted by the Ministry of Finance, through a process in which staledated cheques are extended for use at current dates. This was the case of the second cheque which was updated on June 9, 2011.”
The audit discovered that the supplier, after receiving the $70.291M cheque on September 20, returned $30.291M via a manager’s cheque but the Ministry never sent this back to the Consolidated Fund where all unused government funds are accounted for.
Another strange thing was that a contract was drawn up in May 2011 and approved then by the Tender Board yet cheques for $110M were made up since December 2010, almost six months before- an indication that the Ministry knew who was going to be awarded a particular contract, even before it was awarded.
Internal records at the Ministry’s Book Distribution Unit were not clear raising even more questions.
The report said that from delivery notes records, books were delivered in August and September 2011 and the Coordinator of the Book Distribution Unit later said it was part of a $70M order which was adjusted to $40M.
In charge of the Ministry at the time was Minister Shaik Baksh, who was not included in the current Cabinet under new President Donald Ramotar.
The Audit Office made no bones that something remained wrong about the $110M book order which would be distributed to schools across the country.
“If the deliveries were to be accepted as being made under the orders for 2010, then the supplier is still to deliver books to a value of $62.425M, since the computed value of deliveries to date was $17.575M.
“It was interesting to note that the time period given for delivery was six months, with an end date of October 31, 2011.”
It was this same supplier who was given contracts in 2010 to the tune of $230M but cheques were drawn up in December 2009. There were several discrepancies also with those contracts including one that was “surprisingly” dated one year later on January 21, 2011.
The Tender Board approval did not disclose details of the orders, including the book titles, authors, quantities or even costs. On request, the Ministry of Education provided two contracts and three book lists that give details of the order.
“The Audit Office was unable to validate delivery on the orders, as the state of accounting at the Book Delivery Unit (BDU) made accounting for the books impractical. It should be noted that the BDU provided delivery invoices with supply details of several books. However, these invoices were not referenced to the related orders and did not include the prices of the books supplied.”
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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