Apr 04, 2016 News
– CJIA contractor gets 93 contracts over 3 years despite being accused of fraud
The forensic audit into the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation (CJIAC) has revealed multiple cases of construction contracts being split, with the majority going to a favoured contractor despite his involvement in previous fraud.
The audit report was done by Goorwantie Kaladeen, an accredited member of the International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professionals (IICFIP). It was observed in the report that CJIAC has been awarding construction contracts to major and minor contractors, but was splitting the labour costs and the supply of materials and equipment, thus bypassing the national tender board.
The auditor noted that most of the construction contracts would have exceeded the $450,000 threshold and CJIAC Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Ghir would not have been able to approve them.
So to circumvent the legal tendering process, the contracts were split so that they fell below the $450,000 threshold.
Chapter 73:05, Section 1, 14; of Guyana’s Procurement Act of 2003 states “A procuring entity shall not split or cause to split contracts or divide or cause to divide its procurement into separate contracts, where the sole purpose for doing so is to avoid the application of any provision of this Act or any regulations made there under.”
“Any contract above $450,000 would have to be awarded by the CJIAC Tender Board,” the report stated. “No approval for this division/splitting of Construction Contracts was obtained from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board.”
In the report, however, CJIAC’s management had defended this practice. It stated that the Procurement Act considers contract splitting to be converting a specific job into smaller sums to avoid the values reaching the limits for the public tender process.
“Separation of labour and materials is in no way considered as splitting of contract and hence the Corporation has not breached any of the procurement rules in this regard,” management had declared in its response. “Further, this was confirmed with NPTAB and the Auditor General Office.”
In defending its supply of materials, management also affirmed that the Airport operated on a 24 hour basis and due to its location from Georgetown it would not be practical to purchase items on a piecemeal basis.
“For this reason, a main store was established which holds items ranging from hardware to medical supplies. Additionally, by undertaking to procure the materials, it reduces associated cost such as transportation and ensures quality of materials for projects undertaken.”
However, the auditor reiterated that this amounted to contract splitting and that no approval was given for what was done. The auditor also recommended that the CJIAC Board review the splitting of construction contracts.
“Management (must) seek approval from the NPTAB for continuance of this system,” she also stated. “For all labour contracts, the materials to be used must be cross referenced on the Internal Stores Requisition.”
“The cost of the materials to be used must be known at the time of awarding a labour contract so a proper assessment can be made for the full cost of the works.”
In going into details, the auditor noted that during the period of January 2012 to May 2015, it was observed that contracts totalling in excess of $125M were awarded to Contractors for labour only.
CJIA Chief Executive Officer, Ramesh Ghir approved 85 of these contracts for one particular contractor, while only eight were approved by CJIAC’s tender board. These contracts added up to $31.4M for 93 contracts from 2012 to May 2015.
This is despite the contractor being involved in a fraud case that was reported to the police. The auditor made it clear that these contracts, which were mostly for painting the runway markings and centre lines, must be reviewed since the sums for labour charges were exceptionally high.
On September 2012, the contractor was allegedly involved in fraud at the CJIAC, where he impersonated one of his employees and signed a minor contract with the Corporation.
According to the auditor, he received the payment for the contract work from the Finance Department without any form of identification. He then proceeded to cash the cheque, which was endorsed by a former staff of the Corporation, at the Bank of Guyana.
“The contractor at the CJIAC went to the cashier and uplifted the cheque written in the name of the employee from the cashier who paid the cheque without asking for the ID for both the (contractor) and (the employee).”
The auditor reported that the contractor then took the cheque to Bank of Guyana and made a telephone call to an employee of CJIAC who performs purchasing duties in Georgetown, to come to the Bank to identify him.
“Bank of Guyana at that time had a system whereby if a presenter has no form of acceptable identification, another individual present in the Bank may identify the presenter. The individual must have acceptable identification and must endorse the cheque. The cash must be paid to the Presenter.”
He then identified the contractor as the employee and endorsed the cheque. The contractor then received the cash.
However, Management’s response was that this incident was brought to its attention by the Bank of Guyana. The bank handed over both the contractor and the employee to the Guyana Police Force.
“CJIAC is unaware of the outcome of the situation since the Bank never sought to provide an update on the issue,” management stated. “CJIAC also conducted its own investigation and took action as deemed fit, based on the information which was provided by the Bank of Guyana in the initial report received via telephone. The employee was suspended for one month and was not allowed to conduct any further transactions with the bank. The contractor was also suspended and the cashier involved was issued with a warning letter.”
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