The Ministry of the Presidency utilised millions of dollars in revenues it earned from the Guyana Lottery Fund for the building the D’Urban Park, Georgetown, without Parliamentary approval; and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) collected $2 billion on behalf of Government but only turned over half that amount to the Treasury.
These were among some of the pertinent findings of the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, as he audited the accounts for the first year of the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government.
Sharma’s 2015 report was made public on Thursday by Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland, when the House emerged from its annual two-month recess.
According to Sharma’s findings, the Guyana Government earns 24 per cent of the proceeds from the Guyana Lottery Company but this money is paid into an account controlled by the Ministry of the Presidency and spent with the approval of Cabinet.
Sharma in his report noted that at the beginning of 2015, that account held some $1.4 billion and it received an additional $421 million in 2015.
The Auditor General said following checks on the accounts, it was found that while Government transferred $1 billion of that money to the consolidated fund in 2015, it held onto just over half a billion dollars to remain under the control of the Ministry of the Presidency and it spent $305 million on various activities.
According to a breakdown of the expenditure provided by the Auditor General, $36.5 million went towards the rehabilitation of D’Urban Park; $63.7 million went towards Mashramani celebrations; while another $51 million was utilised for ‘music’.
Other activities funded by the Ministry of the Presidency using the Lotto proceeds related to Emancipation, Amerindian Heritage and Carifesta, among other celebrations.
The Auditor General did observe in his 2015 audit that, “cash book and payment vouchers for 2015 to verify the details of the amounts spent were not presented for audit and the Deputy Accountant General explained that these were with the Forensic Auditor and had not been returned up to the time of the audit.”
Monies from the Lotto Fund held by the Ministry of the Presidency has for years attracted the ire of the now Government since it was always adamant that all of the earnings constituted revenues of the state and should all be deposited into the treasury to be spent with parliamentary approval.
This did not obtain.
It was pointed out by Auditor General Sharma that while the Finance Ministry has budgeted for lottery receipts, expenditure continues to be met without Parliamentary approval.
Sharma has since expressed his opinion that in this regard, the expenditure from the proceeds of the National Lottery should be accounted for by having a Supplementary Estimate passed in the national assembly and recorded in the Public Accounts.
Meanwhile, the Auditor General found also that NICIL – another of the state-owned institutions, which the APNU/AFC has in the past criticised as a slush fund – continues to function in a manner where it retains significant bulks of its proceeds.
This state of affairs has since been adversely reflected on the national accounts since a shortfall of $1 billion from NICIL represented more than half of what was supposed to be collected by Government as part of its revenues on dividends from non-financial institutions.
According to the 2015 Audit Report, an amount of just over $1 billion was reflected as dividends from non-financial institutions, as received from NICIL for the Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) for 2015 as an interim payment.
It was found after an examination of the financial statements for GUYOIL that in 2015 just over $2 billion was in fact handed over to NICIL which it turned over only half of that amount to the Treasury.
The missing US$5 million that was supposed to be paid to NICIL by a Chinese-based company for shares held in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) Company was also flagged by the Auditor General.
According to Sharma, NICIL was the registered holder of 4,125 shares representing 20 per cent of the holdings in GT&T but this was sold in November 2012.
“On November 8, 2012 upon signing of the agreement, an amount of $4.9 billion was transferred to NICIL… the Balance of US$5 million remaining should have been paid by the company within two years. At the time of reporting, no payment was made with respect to the outstanding balance.”
Sharma reported that with respect to the audits of NICIL as an entity, the audit for 2014 is still being finalised.
With regards to the company’s consolidated financial statements, “these have been completed and reports issued up to the year 2006.”