Latest update March 23rd, 2023 12:59 AM
Jul 03, 2019 News
– separate verification process ongoing countrywide for textbooks
State auditors are continuing their probe of the ordering of exercise books for public schools.
The probe is now, Kaieteur News has learnt, in addition to a wider one involving textbooks.
Giving an update yesterday, Auditor General Deodat Sharma disclosed that the probe of the exercise books, which involves the Guyana National Printers Limited, the Book Distribution and the Ministry of Education, is not yet over.
The official was not willing to say when. However, he confirmed that his auditors are also working countrywide to conduct a special performance audit on distribution of textbooks.
The one with the textbooks is to determine what has been delivered to schools in the outlying areas.
As part of the focus, the audits will also seek to determine whether the textbooks being ordered by the government from local and overseas printers, are relevant to the curriculum.
This would be important as over time, there have been growing complaints by parents of students receiving books not needed for the subjects.
Parents are forced to fork out thousands of dollars to buy the ones that are needed.
The Audit Office, less than three months ago, descended on the La Penitence operations of the state-owned GNPL. They also have been carrying out work at the Book Distribution Unit of the Ministry of Education. This was after news reports from local printers who said they were sidelined by the GNPL, which had the contracts with exercise books for the Ministry of Education, and was placing orders to a Trinidad company.
The local printers claimed that the prices paid by the GNPL were above what they could produce the exercise books for. In any case, the printers were also unhappy that the printing of the books were not in keeping with proper procurement standards.
In a paid advertisement last month, the GNPL has distanced itself from a published photo of an exercise book order from Trinidad. GNPL claimed that orders made to Trinidad, came directly from the Ministry of Education. However, this would conflict with the Ministry, which said that it has contracted only GNPL to print exercise books and textbooks in Guyana.
The GNPL advertisement would have raised deep questions about which one of the state entities is telling the truth or whether there is a cover-up of some sort.
There is hundreds of millions of dollars involved. This year alone almost $600M has been set aside for printing of textbooks and exercise books.
According to photos released a few weeks ago to Kaieteur News, the shipment from Trinidad’s Eniath Printing Company Limited included 56-page books, instead of the normal 80-page.
GNPL denied it ordered those books. Rather, it said it is contracted by the Ministry to supply 80-page exercise books and these are normally verified and received by the Ministry of Education staffers.
GNPL and the Education Ministry are facing accusations from local printers of deliberately stifling their businesses. Rather, since 2017, the Coalition Government has sole-sourced GNPL to print its books, which are distributed to public schools from nursery to the secondary levels.
A number of local printers have said they want a meeting with President David Granger for him to explain the situation.
Wrongdoing in the procurement of books is nothing new in Guyana. In fact, the Audit Office of Guyana has consistently red-flagged the procurement and distribution of books to public schools.
The GNPL was recently in the news when it became clear to private printers that something was amiss.
From the understanding of local printers, books were being printed in Trinidad while they did not have an opportunity to bid. The advertisement by GNPL instead sought to target Kaieteur News, instead of addressing the key issues.
A number of the private printers wanted GNPL to explain whether the proper procurement procedures were followed and as such, asked if Guyana was getting value for its money.
They also want to know what Government’s policy is when it comes to state companies competing directly with private companies.
The local printers, which said they have been sidelined include A1 Printery, Kimoke Printery, Kaieteur Books Inc. and F&H Printing Establishment, among others.
GNPL, an 80-year-old state company, fell on hard times. In 2016, during a visit, President David Granger committed resources to modernise its press. What was not said was that the GNPL would be competing directly with local private printers.
In essence, GNPL is purchasing at a high cost and then reselling to the Ministry.
In recent years, there has been increasing awareness over how tax dollars are being spent and that there are proper procurement procedures being followed. However, still, there have been emerging cases where ingenious ways have been found by executives to beat the system.
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