– Rohee did not seek crucial advice from GPF – Audit
By Abena Rockcliffe
Quite contrary to the defence mounted in the past by former Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, an audit into the acquisition of the water cannon for the Guyana Police Force has proved that it has been a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. Also, auditors highlighted the fact that the Guyana Police Force was not consulted for advice on the necessity and suitability of the equipment.
In 2010, Cabinet, under the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration, approved the purchase of “One used Armored Riot Water Cannon Truck” at the request of Rohee.
The then Minister with responsibilities for the Police Force had told Cabinet that the equipment was needed by the Guyana Police Force to be used specifically for the purpose of crowd control during the 2011 General and Regional Elections.
The purchase of the equipment has since been severely criticized as a result of its ineffectiveness. Rohee had defended his government’s acquisition of the water cannon, dismissing assertions that it might have been a case of misplaced priority.
Upon assuming office last year, the APNU+AFC Government engaged Nizam Ali and Company to carry out a Forensic Audit of the acquisition of the water cannon.
The Audit report revealed that the equipment was bought at a price of $20.8M from Shiyan Yunlihong Industrial and Trade Co. Ltd, a company from China as opposed to the previously reported price of $37M.
The report stated that “The Ministry engaged in public tendering as required under section 25(1) of the Procurement Act of Guyana 2003 (the Act). No response was received for the invitation to tender. The MOHA then engaged in procuring the equipment using a three quote system.”
However, the auditors found that the purchasing of the equipment must have just been a bright idea that popped into Minister Rohee’s head, which he acted upon and secured approval from the PPP/C Cabinet.
The Report noted that auditors could not find any “available evidence” of a study or evaluation to determine the need for this equipment. Also, it was noted that there was no study to determine the merit of this particular type of equipment.
Further, during meetings with representatives of the Guyana Police Force, auditors were advised that members of the Force were not consulted on the purchase or selection of the equipment.
This is quite the opposite of what Rohee had told the media while he was Minister. The media had questioned him about the decision to purchase the cannon as opposed to other equipment that were needed at the time. Rohee, in response to this, had said that decisions on the procurement of equipment for law enforcement are made based on the requests of the agencies involved. Rohee had also said, “The police determine in the final analysis, where their priorities lie.”
According to the audit report, during a meeting held last year with Assistant Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine, he indicated that this type of equipment is not suitable for crowd dispersal in Guyana. He reasoned that it may be difficult to maneuver the truck in Georgetown due to the streets not being wide enough. Also, Ramnarine said that the use of the truck may likely damage surrounding buildings.
Auditors also highlighted the fact that the Chief Fire Officer was consulted but this was only to do an evaluation of a quotation from FD Johnson Industry Company Ltd instead of a quotation from the contracted supplier, Shiyan Yunlihong Industrial and Trade Co. Ltd. The report stated that auditors were unable to verify that any due diligence was done for the supplier of this equipment.
A total misfit
The audit found that the equipment did not serve the purpose for which it was acquired.
To support this conclusion, auditors noted that the equipment could not have been deployed during the Linden Protest in July 2012 even though it was summoned, as the nature of the operation and terrain made it unsuitable.
It was further noted that during October 2012, there was a major protest in Agricola, and the Water Cannon Truck was summoned. However, it was determined that the equipment was unsuited for that particular operation also since it was engaging a moving crowd and not a stationary crowd.
The report started, “Based on the use of the equipment between the acquisition date and the current existing condition, we do not believe that the purchase was value for money.”
The Warranty provided for the Water Cannon Truck was 12 months or 20,000 KM, subject to whichever comes first. There was no evidence that sufficient testing was done during the warranty period. Further, there were no records of the mileage reading on the odometer on arrival of the used water cannon truck.”
Since the equipment arrived, the Guyana Police Force spent just over a million dollars for maintenance and keeping the equipment in working order.
While there were no corrective actions recommended to be taken specific to the purchasing of the equipment, the auditors made recommendations that will serve to deter recurrence of the situation.
These recommendations, the auditors said, are geared towards greater and better financial management, accountability and corporate governance. “The acquisition of specialized equipment for the Guyana Police Force should be properly evaluated. Consultation should be held with senior members of the Force with requisite knowledge to determine the need for such equipment.”
Use of equipment
Further, the auditors surmised that the equipment is of no benefit to the Police Force, or the country for that matter, if it is left to be used for its originally intended purpose.
Therefore, it was recommended that the Police Force “carry out an assessment of the usefulness of this equipment and determine whether the cost of maintaining it will justify any future potential benefit. Consideration should also be given to the use of this equipment as a fire fighting tool, or any other alternative use, since it appears that it will be of little use to the GPF.”
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