The bi-partisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament wants an accurate account for millions of taxpayers’ dollars provided to regional bodies.
In its quest to do so, the committee plans to summon former Regional Executive Officers (REOs) of Regions Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Esequibo), Gavin Gounga and Carl Parker, respectively.
During Monday’s meeting of the PAC, Acting REO of Region Nine, Kerwin Ward, appeared with a team of Regional Officials to answer questions pertaining to expenditure and concerns raised in the Auditor General’s report for the 2016 fiscal year.
PAC member and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Parliamentarian, Nigel Dharamlall, pressed Ward for information regarding a deficit of 32 workers from the Region’s approved staff complement.
The acting REO initially indicated that workers had resigned or retired. However, faced with more questions, Ward committed to provide a report to the PAC.
However, Chair of the PAC session, Pauline Sukhai, told Ward, “I hope the trend of not having information will not go on for the rest of the session because it defeats the purpose as to why you are here.”
Ward was appointed Acting REO when Parker was charged with sexual assault against one of the region’s elected officials in early 2017. The case was dismissed and about a month ago, Parker was appointed REO of Region Eight.
Ward told the PAC that there was no formal handing over with Parker.
Further questions regarding the procurement of drugs by the Region were not properly answered. Sukhai then concluded that Regional Officials were unprepared to answer questions from the committee.
Sukhai then adjourned the session and requested that Parker appear before the PAC to answer questions from the AG’s report for 2016. She also requested that since Parker was recently moved to Region Eight, the former REO for the region, Gounga, must also attend when that Region appears before PAC.
Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Communities, Emile McGarrell, committed to fulfilling the PAC’s request.
He noted that the Regional Officials do prepare to answer questions, but most times, there are questions on matters they have not prepared for. The PS noted that the questions from PAC are unpredictable.
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