Even though the Audit Office of Guyana recommended legal action five years ago against a contractor who reneged on his contract to deliver equipment for the Forensic Laboratory, nothing has been done.
This came to light during a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, which followed up on issues that were flagged by Auditor General Deodat Sharma in his 2016 Report.
One of the issues was an agreement the then Ministry of Public Security signed with an overseas supplier, who was contracted to procure $21.9 million worth of equipment for the Forensic Laboratory at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown.
The supplier was paid $9.974 Million in 2017, but only supplied $3.191 Million in forensic laboratory materials. This left materials with a value of $6.783 Million that were not delivered.
The Auditor General had recommended in his 2016 Report that the then Ministry of Public Security take legal action against the contractor.
When PAC member Dharamkumar Seeraj enquired on Monday whether this was ever done, Principal Assistant Secretary for Finance at the renamed Ministry of Home Affairs, Ms. Meyers, replied in the negative.
“If no legal action was taken, can the PAC be informed if the items in question, if they were subsequently delivered?” Seeraj then asked.
“Items to the value of $12.8 Million were delivered. The Ministry would have subsequently applied liquidated damages and terminated the contract,” Meyers further said.
Liquidated damages are a contractual provision that allows an affected party to claim a sum of money in the case of a breach of contract. They are non-punitive; unlike the damages a court may have awarded for the breach had the Ministry taken legal action.
The $1.049B Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory (GFSL) was opened since July 2014, but only received the requisite tools to be fully able to conduct DNA testing in 2019.
When the building was first commissioned it had four departments including toxicology, documents, trace evidence and chemistry with six non-analytical departments namely security, quality system, information system, facilities operations, evidence and administration departments.
Following its launch, however, the GFSL opened two other departments, namely the Forensic Radio Evidence and the DNA aspect which was commissioned in June 2019.