Jan 04, 2021 News
Kaieteur News- For the occupation of government quarters, public servants are required to pay rent of 10 percent and 12 percent of their salary for unfurnished and furnished accommodation respectively, except where entitlement to rent free government quarters had been previously approved, as a condition of service.
However, the Auditor General report 2019 stipulated that despite the regional administration in Region Four owning and controlling several government quarters, neither records nor documentation was submitted for audit examination pertaining to the year 2019.
The audit report explained that staff members occupying living quarters are entitled to rent free quarters if their official residence is outside of Region Four.
“There is no other staff member who is entitled to a rent free living quarter and is paying a rent,” the document stated.
The audit office has therefore recommended that the Regional Administration submit an updated and comprehensive building inventory for the year under review for audit examination. In response, the Head of Budget Agency indicated that the Regional Administration continues to collaborate with the relevant agencies with the view of identifying occupants of government quarters to bring them into compliance.
This is not the first time that issues over the occupation of government quarters were highlighted in the AG report. The problem dates back several years. In 2015, the Auditor General’s Office found that 72 residential buildings were occupied by officers of the Region. The Regional administration was however not in receipt of rents from the occupants.
Additionally, regional officials could not say if any of the properties were furnished, neither could they verify who were eligible to live rent-free.
This issue had raised serious questions of accountability by senior officers in the Regions, and why under the watch of a Regional Executive Officer and a Deputy Regional Executive Officer such an issue was not known.
It is believed that this issue may have cheated the government’s purse of over $7M over that period on non-payment.
In 2016, Auditor General Deodat Sharma also found that out of 300 buildings owned by the Region Four Administration, 132 were occupied. However, only 26 of these occupants were actually paying rent. In his report, the Auditor General had noted that the squatting continues unabated.
Sharma flagged the issue in his 2017 report as well, detailing that over $1M in rent remained outstanding. According to the report, the issue is of particular concern with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
The Ministry had a total of forty-two flats available for rental to public officers during that fiscal year. According to the report from a perusal of the rental file, rental register and other supporting documents, the AG was able to determine that 37 flats were rented, five flats were vacant, and 14 were rent free.
In addition, it was noted that, as at December 2017, the sum of $1.444 million was owed. This includes the sum of $669,000 for 2016 and $775,000 for 2017. It should be noted that some tenants have rents outstanding since January 2016.
“This contradicts Clause Two of their rental agreement, which states that the tenant agrees to pay to the landlord in advance the monthly rental,” the Auditor General had reported in 2017.
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