AG’s 2017 report unearths glaring discrepancies, corruption – PAC Chair

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Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and point man on finance Irfaan Ali

Member of Parliament and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman, Irfaan Ali has expressed concern with what he says are shocking instances of administrative oversight being highlighted by the Auditor General’s 2017 report.

Ali noted on Sunday that the 2017 report was littered with discrepancies and corruption for that fiscal year.

“In the education sector, as it relates to the supply of dietary items under the Kato Breakfast School Feeding Programme, Region Eight, prices paid were significantly higher when compared to prices of similar items previously purchased by the Region. In total, $33.6 million was expended on items whose prices were grossly inflated.

“Similarly, under the $2.1 billion school feeding programme, 11 schools in Region Seven and Nine, could not account for $52.1 million, a repeated misdemeanour that was highlighted in the preceding Auditor General Report. Hence, at the Ministry of Education Tender Board level, procurement irregularities continued uninterrupted” said Ali.

He also highlighted parts of the report, where it was revealed that 40 contracts totalling $15.9 million were awarded without the requisite tender board approval and of which 35 were awarded to one contractor at a total value of $12.8 million.

“Moreover, numerous instances of overpayments were recorded. For example, two contractors, with respect to the installation of water distribution line and system, and night-lighting system at the synthetic track and field facility, received $4.114 million and $4.767 million respectively in overpayments,” Ali noted.

“In another instance, the contract for the construction of a chain-link fence at the One Mile Primary School, Wismar, which was awarded by the Regional Tender Board for the sum of $12.583 million, received an overpayment of $727,000.”

Moving on to the Education Ministry’s Department of Culture, the PAC Chairman pointed to the AG’s findings that six vehicles not registered as property of the Ministry were used to uplift 4351 litres of diesel valued $788,773 from Guyoil’s Regent Street location.

The fuel, he noted, was uplifted on 13 instances. And he observed that based on the AG’s report, in excess of one ‘45 gallons’ drum was uplifted on each occasion on average. This is compounded by the fact that checks by the auditor could not confirm the basis on which the quantities of fuel were uplifted.

“Under the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, three vehicles were sold. The first, a Toyota pickup, was sold for $50,000. The vehicle was never advertised; hence no bids were received. The second, a Nissan Frontier Pickup, again, was sold for $50,000, notwithstanding the highest bid for the vehicle came in at $500,000. The buyer, however, didn’t participate in the bidding process.”

“The third, a Toyota Coaster bus, valued at $950,000, was sold for $301,000, to the third highest bidder of seven. Interestingly, the highest bid came in at $1.1 million. Similarly, under the aforementioned Ministry, $201 million couldn’t be accounted for due to missing payment vouchers. Of the total, $38.2 million was under the sub-category of National and Other Events, Dietary and Refreshment and Meals,” Ali noted.

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