The Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Education, Vibert Welch, has once again found himself in hot water – this time for the construction of a previous guard hut during his tenure at the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs.
Government earlier this year appointed Welch as the Ministry’s PS during a reshuffle of Permanent Secretaries.
Earlier this week, Welch came under the spotlight after it was revealed that more than half-million was expended by the Ministry on a guard hut at his Bent Street, Georgetown residence.
Several eyebrows were raised over the size of the structure, and the $540,470 that was used to carry out the project.
The structure is approximately five feet in width, five feet in length and about eight feet high. And judging from its appearance, the structure had recently been painted with the electrical components already in place. The contract was awarded to Linden Ogle, who was listed among the contractors that submitted proposals for the construction of the hut.
Aside from that, the Ministry is also paying $20,000 monthly for the rental of a toilet for the security guards.
Welch has since distanced himself from the project, saying that he had no part to play in the awarding of the contract or the methodology that was used to arrive at the seemingly exorbitant price. He said that all he did was to sign off on the documents after the relevant technical persons, including the engineer and the Chief Works Officer, would have given their approval.
The PS had explained that his signature of approval was needed, since he is the accounting officer, and all disbursements of funds have to be approved by him.
This was endorsed by the PS of the Department of Public Service, Reginald Brotherson, four days ago.
THE OTHER HUT
Welch had told Kaieteur News also that during his tenure at the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry, he would have acquired a guard hut, and was using it at his home.
After being transferred to the other Ministry, the structure was taken to that Ministry’s annexe which is located on Thomas Street, Georgetown.
Checks were made – which later confirmed by a reliable source – which show that the hut which now sits at the annexe, would have been constructed to the tune of $1M, and Welch gave approval for its creation.
What is considered alarming is that the hut has the same dimensions as the grossly overpriced one at Bent Street. The hut was reportedly built back in 2015, the source said.
After the minister, the PS is the most powerful person in the ministries. In the past, several Permanent Secretaries were fired or transferred for wrongdoing.
With billions of dollars at stake in each ministry, it was not unusual in the past for auditors to red-flag transactions because of overpayments and other deliberate manipulations. Concerns have also been raised over the other projects and payments made at the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry and now at the Ministry of Education.
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