Nov 22, 2022 News
– Auditor General launches special investigation
Kaieteur News – A special investigation is being conducted by the Audit Office of Guyana following the discovery major discrepancies in the Government’s Flood Relief Programme.
Auditor General (AG) Deodat Sharma in his 2021 Report explained that the Office of the Prime Minister had received an amount of $183.500 million for ‘Other expenses’ while a Supplementary Provision of $10 billion was approved for Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Management giving a revised allotment of $10.184 billion.
Notably, the sum of $8.665 billion was expended. According to the Report, warrants were issued to the Ministry of Agriculture for Flood Relief Assistance to farmers and households to the tune of $7.600 billion. However, “The sum of $7.124 billion was recorded as expenditure as at 31 December 2021. The balance on the warrants of $476M represents amounts that were unreleased and cheques that were cancelled.” As such, the Audit Office said it was in the process of conducting a special audit.
Additionally, it was highlighted that $295.838 million in items were single-sourced for the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) hampers. The document explained that some 42 payment vouchers were examined when it was observed that eight contractors were hand-picked and awarded by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), through the direct contracting or single source method. “According to the data sheets attached to the NPTAB awards, the Ministry was advised that once the contracts between the Office of the Prime Minister and the suppliers have been signed, the date of signing of the contracts should be inserted on the sheets and returned to NPTAB immediately so as to facilitate publishing on the NPTAB website within five days of the signing of the contracts,” the Report outlined.
Furthermore, the AG said that audit checks of Payment Voucher Number 0200001563 for $79.074 million revealed that items totalling $1.652M were not recorded in the store’s records of the Civil Defence Commission. As a result, it could not be determined if the items were received.
Also at the time of reporting, the Ministry of Finance did not provide 76 and another six payment vouchers amounting to $484.470 million and $134.236 million for line items Others – 6294 and Dietary – 6292, respectively. As such, the completeness, accuracy, and validity of the payments could not be determined, the AG said.
In response to the Auditor General’s findings, the Office of the Prime Minister said the department, “During the end of the fiscal year 2021 was pressed to implement as much of its budgetary allocation. It was during this haste that these lapses occurred.” It assured that the Office has since been implementing the process required for restoring/updating contracts, records, and correspondence related to this programme. The Audit Office recommended that the Prime Minister’s Office put systems in place to manage and execute contracts in compliance with the FMA Act and the Procurement Act and also to ensure that all supplies are received.
Back in September when he had presented his report to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, Sharma had told reporters that his office had started to provide real-time monitoring of Government‘s expenditure on the series of cash grants being distributed to the public. He told reporters “Our teams of auditors were engaged in real-time audits where we were able to ensure the objective of the activity was achieved, beneficiaries received their grant without prejudice of any minor post review documentation issues.”
While the Auditor General assured there is no better audit evidence than first hand witness, he noted that the task comes with its own challenges as it is very tedious and time consuming. “The Audit Office has to send staff on the road and we are still in the COVID period, so those are some of the challenges,” he added
Sharma said then too that the full audit of the various cash grants was ongoing. “So we are doing real-time monitoring to ensure that things go how they are supposed but we are also working on the full audit of the cash grant distribution which once completed, the reports will be handed over to the Parliament Office,” Sharma added. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration has issued a series of cash grants since 2020, these include $25,000 COVID-19 cash grant, the $25,000 one-off cash grant to public servants, the $25,000 ‘Because We Care’ education cash grant, the $250,000 cash grant paid to fisherfolk and the $100,000 cash grant issued to children with disabilities.
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