Latest update March 26th, 2023 12:59 AM
Feb 05, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Budget money has been identified for the Audit Office, so that its people can take a close look at how the millions withdrawn from the nation’s oil fund were spent. Guyana’s Audit Office has been saddled with the responsibility to follow the money trail from beginning to end, so to speak. That is, from the time deposits were made into the National Resource Fund (NRF), to when withdrawals occurred, and to where and what and how, the monies taken out are spent. The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, had said that such withdrawals are to fund“national development priorities.” It is the Audit Office’s duty to go behind that broad, bland umbrella of Dr. Singh, and check the specifics of whatever that meant, and how oil fund money was involved.
We at this paper think that all of this could have some substance, but only on the condition that Guyanese taxpayers and Guyanese owners of the oil and, by extension, the oil monies, get real honest scrutiny in any audits executed by the Audit Office. Of necessity, there must be deep probing, and principled reporting on where the money went, and how well it is accounted for and managed by the Government. The Audit Office has its work cut out for it, and we back it to do well for us. In 2022, a total of US$607M was taken out of the NRF account held in a New York bank by the Government. It is over GY$121B withdrawn, and the Audit Office now has the responsibility to peer behind the veil of “national development priorities” and to determine how many of those drawn down oil billions (local dollars) were used for what could be considered to be really ‘national’ and of what represented ‘development’ and how many of such ‘priorities’ registered as legitimate.
Now, a special eight-member unit is to be established within the next two months to audit how the withdrawn oil fund US millions were spent. In confirmation, these are the actual words of Auditor General, Dr. Deodat Sharma, “If you look at the various committees that they (government) set up, one of the committees that I think has been set up will determine how the money will be spent, so you will have to check with the committees at the BoG (Bank of Guyana) that is overseeing the Natural Resource Fund. They would have that responsibility to say okay we are going to be building x, y and z. So, in other words, this Committee will say exactly how it was spent. We would then check to verify whatever they say that the money was used for that it went to the project intended.”
“Check and verify” is what the Audit General said, and though that may come across as a normal part of audit routines, in the instance of oil and gas spending, other considerations are always on the table. It is oil monies, the patrimony of the people, that are under the microscope. Hundreds of billions in oil money have been siphoned off by greedy and crooked politicians and their crews in most places that oil was found, with particular emphasis on poor Third World countries struggling to keep their heads above water. In Guyana, there is a lengthy, ugly, and costly history of governmental and political thievery of taxpayers’ money long before the arrival of oil.
As has become more obvious with each new development, the presence of oil and its rich rewards have only made matters worse when ruling political operators and cooperative bureaucrats are involved. Credibility and trust have been savaged into shreds by rogue politicians with secrecies and dodges the order of the day. Nothing is disclosed, with no conscientious Guyanese official in the mix saying anything, and silence enjoying a long, unending season.
This is what the Audit Office’s 8-member oil and gas audit unit will encounter. It is imperative, therefore, that the right blend of skills, professional ethics, and experienced people, with Guyana’s interests at heart, must be the ones leading the charge with audits of oil money spending. Only then will Guyanese be accurately informed of how their oil monies were spent, and if it was cleanly.
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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