“The fact that no Accounting Officer is on record of being sanctioned for inefficiency, fraud or dereliction of duty, has allowed a certain culture to grow.”
By Kiana Wilburg
Disturbing financial transgressions by budget agencies which are documented year after year by Auditor General Deodat Sharma, in his reports, points to the need for serious action to be taken so as to protect taxpayers’ dollars and significantly reduce wastage.
This has been emphasised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – the standing committee that exercises supervisory oversight of the functioning of the Audit Office. The Committee exercises powers in keeping with the Evidence Act, Chapter 1:08, which allows for the summoning of witnesses to give evidence and/or provide documents to it. It also has penalties for non-compliance without proper reason.
According to the Committee, its engagements for the last fifty meetings in the National Assembly were occasioned in a large way, to addressing issues raised in the Auditor General’s 2010 and 2011 reports on the public accounts of Guyana.
The PAC said that the evidence emanating from these encounters suggests that they were not unique to those years. The Committee said that this in itself, points to the need for a revisit of the training and/or selection methods employed by the Government.
“Correspondingly, the need has arisen for weighted sanctions to be employed on errant Accounting Officers as a means of reducing leakage. The fact that no Accounting Officer is on record of being sanctioned for inefficiency, fraud or dereliction of duty, has allowed a certain culture to grow,” the PAC stated.
The Committee further asserted that this is evident in the types of frivolous responses some Accounting Officers provided when queries were made about serious financial irregularities at their agencies. Hence, the Committee said that its oversight role as guardian of public expenditure is in a way pacified or called into question by the public.
The Committee said that it was heartened by the evidence of improvement in a number of agencies. However, it noted that there continues to be systemic challenges faced by some agencies, especially the Regions, for which training and/or the recycling of staff did not address.
Additionally, the Committee said that over the years, there have been a number of challenges regarding Budget Agencies.
The Committee observed that across budget agencies, Accounting Officers and/or engineering staff appear to persistently sign off on incomplete projects. It said that Accounting Officers were found in many instances, not implementing appropriate measures to avoid the recurrence of overpayment. Compounding the situation is the fact that Government Agencies seemed reluctant to use the performance-based gratuity (specifically the withholding of increments) of Accounting Officers as a means of promoting efficiency.
Additionally, the Committee said that the recycling of Accounting Officers who had been cited for inefficiency from one agency to another remains an irritant. The PAC said that it has also observed that in numerous cases, Performance Bonds and Insurance were seldom utilized as surety by Ministries/Regions against shoddy and incomplete work done by contractors. In this regard as well, it found that there is a lack of clearly defined policies as it relates to invoking the Insurance and Performance bonds at the appropriate time.
The PAC noted, too, that Log Books not being properly maintained continues to be a perennial problem across Ministries/Departments/Regions.
Furthermore, the PAC has found that the Auditor General’s Engineering Department appears overstretched, given the number of expected interventions and the increase in capital works across agencies.
The PAC said that another frustrating challenge is the fact that Accounting Officers when challenged regarding the comments in the Auditor General’s reports for signing off on incomplete projects, are in the habit of behaving as though the contractors are automatically and legally liable for rectifying the defects.
The Committee said that a significant number of issues appearing before it are as a result of failure to put in place appropriate or timely policies and/or remedies. One such example it cited, was the unclear arrangements for the writing off of losses, which keeps recurring as queries annually.
The PAC also expressed its dissatisfaction with the fact that budget agencies are taking on the average, one year (minimal), to rectify queries highlighted in the Auditor General’s Report. It stressed that in no uncertain terms, changes have to be made in this regard.
Feb 28, 2020Guyana’s ‘Lady Jags’ go down to Mexico; focus now turn to round-of-16 Guyana’s ‘Lady Jaguars’ went down to group winners Mexico by a 0-3 margin last night at the Olimpico Felix Sanchez...
Feb 28, 2020
Feb 28, 2020
Feb 28, 2020
Feb 28, 2020
Feb 28, 2020
I refer readers to my column titled, “Claudette Singh, Lennox Shuman, GECOM and tragic Guyana” of Saturday, February... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]