As state auditors continued their probe in the multi-million dollar orders for exercise books at the Guyana National Printers Limited (GNPL), there are indications that the state-owned entity is still far from being out of the woods.
It is owed millions of dollars by customers and it is projected that its financial situation would worsen come year end.
According to the Government’s half year report, GNPL recorded a deficit of $21.5M, compared to a deficit of $55.2M in the same period in 2018.
“Total revenues reached $275.9 million, an increase of $75.5 million over the corresponding period in 2018, but 94.2 percent of the budgeted amount. The latter resulted from several entities not honouring their debts in a timely manner.”
GNPL’s total expenditures for the period under review amounted to $293.8M, an increase of $87.7M, due to additional purchases of paper stock, as well as repairs and maintenance of the equipment used to produce exercise books.
The equipment has been delivering blows to the company with a number of issues, including electrical since a number of additional pieces were purchased as part of a modernization plan.
The Finance Ministry said that it is expected that the entity will face a cash deficit of $80.5M at the end of 2019, a worsening from a cash surplus of $40M forecasted at the time of Budget 2019.
GNPL, an 80-year-old state company, fell on hard times over the decades.
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 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 to beat the system.
State auditors stepped in earlier this year after damning indications contained in reports by Kaieteur News pointed to procurement breaches.
The probe would also include the procurement and distribution of textbooks.
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, over four 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, the GNPL 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 had 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 was telling the truth or whether there was 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.
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