There are a number of public corporations in Guyana for which the Government is responsible.
These corporations include the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Guyana Oil Company Limited, Guyana Post Office Corporation, National Insurance Scheme, Guyana Power and Light Inc., Guyana National Newspapers Limited, Guyana Rice Development Board and the Guyana National Shipping Corporation.
On an annual basis, these entities are expected to submit their audited financial statements in the National Assembly. It was expected that over the years, these reports would have been forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee for perusal. However, this requirement was not honoured. Instead, the reports were simply left to languish on the shelves of Parliament.
Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, said that he was not aware of the anomaly when contacted yesterday, but promised to “look into it.”
In the meantime, the matter is one that has caught the attention of Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran.
The anti-corruption advocate said in his recent writings that all entities in which controlling interest vests with the State are required to have annual audited financial statements within six months of the close of the financial year, and for these statements to be laid in the National Assembly as soon as practicable by the concerned Ministers.
Goolsarran said, “Unfortunately, over the years, this requirement has been invariably honoured in the breach, and when the accounts were tabled in the Assembly, they were not referred to the PAC for detailed examination, in contrast to what prevails at the level of the central government.”
He then asked, “If this is not done, then what would be the point of having the statements laid in the National Assembly in the first place?”
The PAC is 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. The Committee examines the annual report of the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma.
Furthermore, the recommendation for the PAC to widen its scrutiny was recently made by Goolsarran. His suggestion was made in wake of the damning findings which were uncovered by the forensic audits that were launched by the coalition administration.
Goolsarran had told this newspaper that the task of greater scrutiny by the PAC is enormous but necessary. In this regard, he commented that there is a model that the United Nations uses which is worthy of serious consideration. He explained that it involves having a committee of experts examining these accounts first and submitting the results to the PAC.
In this way, Goolsarran said, there will be no need for the PAC to carry out any detailed examination, as it will rely on the work of the committee.
It was in May 2015 that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars on 45 of the 50 forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration. The remaining five audits were sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Several audits were also launched in July 2015 while others started in later weeks.
The forensic audits in some cases have reportedly not only uncovered fraud and various forms of corruption, but investigators have also made several critical recommendations for the way forward on several agencies and sectors, all of which Cabinet is yet to see.
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