AG Report on $1.6B “Covid-19 facility” to be submitted soon

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Auditor General Deodat Sharma has completed the investigation into the controversial rehabilitation of the Ocean View Hotel to act as a COVID-19 facility.

When contacted, AG Sharma only indicated that the report should be submitted to Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony soon.

The audit commenced last week, according to Minister Dr Anthony.

“From the financial and audit perspective the Auditor General sent a team to Ocean View and they spent an entire day there trying to see what is going on. All the documents that the Auditor General has requested that has been given to him so that they will be able to do a proper report and present to us so that we can decide the way forward so.

“If these sums of money we’re told were spent on the building, then the Guyanese public deserves to know what it was actually spent on. $1.6B is a lot of money and therefore people deserve to know and the only way we can know that is to have the Auditor General and his team do that type of audit and present those results to us,” Minister Anthony said during his appearance on the programme ‘Government in Focus’.

Back in April, AG Sharma had said that from the available reports, the arrangement may not have gone through the required process. The Auditor General had noted that in light of the novel coronavirus and the exceptional political circumstances, separate accounts for expenditures incurred are expected to be kept.

The former David Granger Government embarked on transforming the flood-prone building into a facility to house COVID-19 patients amidst much criticisms, especially since the Government was in caretaker mode. In fact, the details surrounding the deal were kept secret from the public. It has been revealed that over $1.6 billion was spent just to renovate the building.

However, the building is nonfunctional, and according to the new Health Minister, not properly equipped.

Dr Anthony had sent a medical technical team to assess the facility. He announced that the team discovered that in the designated Intensive Care Unit, the oxygen and suction tubes were not properly installed. In addition, the ventilators procured for the facility are not capable of operating more than a maximum of 4 hours.

“For the ICU area we will need to ensure that there is oxygen and suction…generally when you are making a hospital those tubes are placed in the wall. This facility was rehabilitated and they had the opportunity of placing those things in the wall, because that also reduces transmission and infection spread, but that was not done,” Dr Anthony related.

He added that if the PPP/C Government decides to use the facility then another phase of refurbishment would have to commence to bring it up to standard which ultimately places an additional burden on the already depleted treasury.

“They have a section that has to do with dialysis. If you are going to provide dialysis to patients you would need filtered water and no provision was made for dialysis. The space is a shell. There are no beds, equipment and you can’t have a hospital if you don’t have the necessary equipment to treat the patients that would come there.

“The ventilators bought for the hospital there cannot run continuously for 24 hours. These are for ambulances and only for short periods like 2-3 hours. You just have to wonder how such blunders were made,” the Minister stated.

It was only recently discovered that the coalition administration never properly acquired the property before spending $1.6B to rehabilitate it.

The owner of the building, Wilfred Rambarran, is now demanding millions of dollars owed in rent, claiming that the property still belongs to him.