Jul 20, 2021 News
By Gary Eleazar
Kaieteur News – The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly was yesterday told that the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) is unable to account for hundreds of millions of dollars meant for the monthly payments of old age pension.
The vexing issue was first raised by the Auditor General in his 2016 report on government accounts, which had found that the payment vouchers could not be reconciled.
Auditor General (AG), Deodat Sharma, has since ordered that the accounts be closed in order to facilitate an in depth reconciliation of the monies.
The Committee heard that the monies do not account for one year but rather obtained over a number of years but by 2016, the year under review, the amount had reached some $594 million.
Compounding the situation, the Audit Office has since deemed the Corporation as having a disclaimer status with regards its audits.
AG Sharma, who was present for yesterday’s session of the PAC meeting, informed the members that there are three statuses deemed by auditors, namely qualified, unqualified and disclaimer.
According to Sharma, disclaimer refers to a situation where documents are not provided to facilitate an audit.
The information was had as the Committee grilled the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar, over the unaccounted money.
The PAC heard that the process involves the Ministry frontloading monies to the GPOC in order to make pension payments to the elderly after which, the vouchers would be reconciled at the levels of the then Ministry of Social Protection and Ministry of Finance.
Permanent Secretary Hoosein-Qutar in providing some clarity to the members of the committee indicated that among the challenges is the fact that the process involves three separate agencies, namely the two ministries and the post office corporation.
She told members that as soon as the Ministry closes the account, which is scheduled for August this year, it will allow teams from the AG Office, along with the Ministry, to endeavour to conduct an in depth audit of the records.
Pressed on whether the situation of reconciliation between the ministry and the post office is a result of a systemic problem or carelessness, the official conceded that there were no effective systems in place previously, a situation the officials are attempting to address.
The committee also heard of additional security features being put in place since 2003 at which time a $13 million fraud had been unearthed and another in 2011.
According to the AG report under scrutiny, the Old Age Imprest Bank Account was established to facilitate the operations of the Old Age Pension (OAP) Scheme and the Public Assistance (PA) Programme.
The AG had found however, that according to the cash book summary at the time, the sum of $600.428 million was indebted by GPOC to the Ministry. “It should be noted, that an examination of the corrected reconciliation statements from GPOC for the period June to December 2016 revealed that the Corporation was indebted to the Ministry the sum of $532.407 million. As a result, there is a difference of $68.021 million between the records kept at the Ministry and GPOC reconciliation statement,” the AG had found.
The Ministry at the time had sought to explain that a reconciliation statement between GPOC and the Ministry of Social Protection for the year 2016 was prepared and submitted to the Auditors.
As such, the PS indicated, “the Cash Book has now been adjusted in 2017 to reflect the sum of $640.742 million due by GPOC as at 31 December, 2016 and the unreconciled difference reduced to $115.932 million.”
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