A $30M purchase of films in 2007 and $500,000 which is believed to have been stolen were the focus of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.
Chief Elections Officer (ag), Calvin Benn, of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) now has to provide additional answers. This was following a heated PAC meeting yesterday to examine the 2011 Report of the
One of the issues raised was a flagged $500,000 advance made in August 2006 for the General and Regional Elections that has never been cleared. The other pertained to an April 11, 2007 agreement with ACME Photo studio over a $30M deal with films about to be expired.
Benn took over the position early last year after the contract of Gocool Boodhoo expired.
The two issues have been continuously raised as outstanding for a number of years now by the Auditor General in his annual reports.
Regarding the ACME purchases, GECOM in its written explanation said that during its statutory meetings, it had ruled that the matter was legally dead since the statute of limitation had run out. ACME had paid over $4.9M and had returned over $10M in spoilt films but millions were still outstanding to GECOM.
PAC member, Bibi Shadick, was “flabbergasted” that GECOM could take it upon itself to make “rulings” on monies.
The Committee yesterday was also at odds over earlier accounts over $500,000. Benn said that he had taken the $500,000 advance when he was Deputy Chief Elections Officer. The monies were to be given to officers to visit polling officers to take care of eventualities of meals and any emergencies. However, the safe it was being kept in was broken into and the monies stolen. In total $435,000 was stolen. He was prepared to pay the difference, he told PAC.
Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, stood by his reports of the 2011 audit that the monies were kept in a drawer.
PAC members recalled being told in the past that the monies were left in a drawer.
Shadick made it clear that she believed the GECOM’s official story was “made up”, telling him that his explanation had “set us thinking” with PAC not prepared to be disrespected.
With regards to the films, auditors had found that a stock of 268 cartons of Polaroid film with an estimated market value of $30.485M was due to expire on 30 April 2007, but the Commission entered into an agreement, whereby ACME, a local firm would utilise and replace the stock at a later date. On September 13, 2007, 94 cartons with an estimated value of $10.693M were declared spoilt by ACME and returned to the Commission while the difference of 174 cartons valued at $19.792M were still outstanding. On 6 March 2010 the Commission received goods to the value of $4.924M, leaving a balance of $14.868M outstanding.
PAC member, Gail Teixeira requested the police report that Benn made.
GECOM had asked for both matters to be written off by the Finance Secretary.
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