Contingency Fund utilised in 2016 to reimburse GINA for money spent in 2015
…GINA Director unable to explain, request auditors scrutinise the books again
Director of the Government Information Agency (GINA), Beverly Alert, today (May 22, 2017) called for auditors to again take a look at the entity’s finances, since the data she was furnished with contained glaring inaccuracies for which she was unable to explain to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
The GINA Director during an intense series of questioning by Committee Chairman (ag) Bishop Juan Edghill, essentially ‘threw in the towel’ and said “the auditors probably have to come in back…maybe we have to scrutinize the books again I can only go to what was provided to me by the staff of GINA.”
The GINA Director was at the time being questioned over the use of a Contingency Fund Advance to meet bonus payments for the staff at the end of 2015.
The cheques issued under the advance from the Contingency Fund were made in January of 2016 but the bonus payments were made in December 2015, which led to the back and forth, eventually leading to a call for the auditors to take a fresh look at the books.
The issue was put to the Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who said that the Contingency Fund was utilised to reimburse GINA for money spent in 2015.
The Contingency Fund was established as a sub-fund to the Consolidated Fund, commonly referred to as the Treasury. Under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, “The Minister, when satisfied that an urgent, unavoidable and unforeseen need for expenditure has arisen – (a) for which no moneys have been appropriated or for which the sum appropriated is insufficient; (b) for which moneys cannot be reallocated as provided for under this Act; or (c) which cannot be deferred without injury to the public interest, may approve a Contingencies Fund advance as an expenditure out of the Consolidated Fund.”
It was pointed out that for the Contingency Fund to be used in such a manner is “going further into a cesspool.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Presidency, Abena Moore, sought to explain that the money was requested from the Finance Ministry on behalf of GINA—which falls under the Office of the Prime Minister in MOTP—in order to make payments to the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL), publishers of the Guyana Chronicle.
The debt, according to Alert, was incurred by GINA in the period leading up to May 2015.
It was explained that GNNL was paid $9.4M and the remainder of the money that had been requested was used to reimburse GINA for the bonus payments made.
The Contingency Fund advance totaled $11M.
Following the request by Alert to have the auditors re-audit GINA’s financials Moore committed to not have a re-occurrence.
Committee member, Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Parliamentarian and former Permanent Secretary, Nigel Dharamlall, took umbrage to the state of affairs.
“I don’t think expending public resource can be treated with a slap on the wrist,” according to Dharamlall.
He said it is unacceptable that Moore can just say it will not happen again—the abuse of the Contingency Fund.
Dharamlall called on the Auditor General to launch another investigation into the matter.
According to the PPP/C member, “I think whatever measures need to be put in place including disciplinary measures should be put whether within GINA or the office of the PS.”