The Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry was unable to account for how $865.1 million in taxpayers’ money that went towards the programme was actually spent.
This is according to Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who noted in his latest report that $576 million spent on stipends for the 1,900 trainees, and $81.8 million spent on 230 HEYS staff during the period January to December 2017 were not substantiated with progress reports from the Indigenous People’s Affairs Ministry.
In addition, there was lack of accountability for how the money was spent in providing business grants to individuals and communities to set up small projects, purchase equipment, procure items for training, meals, accommodation, travels, and the very launch of the second phase of the project.
“The ministry did not present progress reports for these projects; therefore, it could not be determined whether the funds were utilised for the intended purpose,” the Auditor General also noted.
In addition, the AG found that $210.3 million was expended to pay grants ranging from $500,000 to $2 million to 215 indigenous villages across the country to execute various projects. But the duplication of one particular payment raised eyebrows for the state auditors.
“It was observed that there was a duplication of payment in the sum of $800,000 to one of the community villages,” the AG stated, noting that progress reports were also not presented for these projects.
“The Head of the Budget Agency acknowledged this finding, but explained that after this payment was processed twice in IFMAS (Integrated Financial Management System), the second cheque was refunded to the Consolidated Fund.”
HEYS was first launched by the coalition Government when the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry partnered with several other ministries and Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) for the development of residents of the hinterland areas.
It was announced earlier this year that the programme would be replaced with something that can incorporate other programmes and have an expanded reach across Guyana.