Dec 03, 2020 News
– asks Audit Office to investigate purchase of used $100M printing equipment
Kaieteur News – The new board of the state-owned Guyana National Printers Limited (GNPL) has sent home its Finance Manager, Shawn Victorine, and has called in the Audit Office.
According to the company which is supposed to print on behalf of Government, the official has not been “cooperating” to provide updates on the finances of the entity.
“The Chairman and Directors of the Guyana National Printers Limited (GNPL) at an emergency board meeting on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020, unanimously decided that Finance Manager of GNPL, Mr. Shawn Victorine, proceed on leave with immediate effect to facilitate an audit of the company’s finances,” a board statement said.
The board said that the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, has been written to and invited to carry out an audit by the Chairman, Dexter Phillips.
GNPL’s board said that Victorine has not been cooperating with official directives for information on the company’s finance, thereby stalling the work of the board.
“There are serious concerns over the finances of the company including the purchase of used printing equipment acquired for over $100M which is non-functional among other financial transactions.”
The board said that it remains hopeful that the audit could be undertaken in an expeditious manner while Mr. Victorine remains on leave.
GNPL had come under the spotlight after it became known that the entity printed books – text and exercise books – outside of Guyana at exorbitant prices while bypassing local printers which had the capacity.
The Ministry of Education, under Nicolette Henry, had remained largely silent despite repeated calls by local printers for explanations.
It will be recalled that in November 2016, the then President, David Granger, visited the La Penitence facilities of the state-owned entity.
Over the years, it had been critical in producing exercise and text books for distribution in schools; birth, death and marriage certificates, Official Gazettes and other parliamentary documents including the budget estimates, calendars, labels, other forms and cardboard boxes.
However, despite celebrating 80 years in operations, a lack in investments and mismanagement has been bleeding the operations.
In late 2016, during the visit, the President promised that he will assist in facilitating a cash injection to help reverse the losses.
Reportedly, $100M was plugged into the operations to upgrade and modernize the printery.
A used printing press was acquired from overseas and installed early 2018 but it has failed to deliver.
That was the same year that GNPL started to procure exercise books and text books in Trinidad and Tobago.
During its time in opposition before 2015, the Coalition had criticized instances of sole-sourcing and other procurement procedures which would have closed the door to transparency and accountability.
To make things more insulting, it appears that even the text books that Guyana have rights to, including Timehri Readers and Fun With Languages, are not being printed here.
The number of exercise books needed annually is said to be over 500,000.
Operating since 1939, the GNPL had 80-plus staff members, many of whom have worked at the printery for over 30 years, and who have accumulated considerable expertise and experience working under trying conditions.
Officials of GNPL told Kaieteur News that several transactions appeared to be suspicious under the previous board and that “numerous instances of what appears to be fraud” are appearing.
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