…as Finance Director disavows financial responsibility at Hospital
A ‘disrespectful’ Chief Executive Officer of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GHPC) Allan Johnson, was earlier today (Monday) upbraided by Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Irfaan Ali, and was subsequently asked to leave the hearing.
Johnson was at the time being grilled together with Finance Officer, Ronald Charles by Ali and colleague Peoples Progressive Party Civic, Member of Parliament, Bishop Juan Edghill, but both men were woefully ill prepared while being grilled over expenditures by the entity.
The matter came to loggerheads when the MP questioned a failure to submit financial statements for 2015 in breach of the Public Corporation Act by GHPC.
Questions were left unanswered and a state of affairs was also unearthed where the ‘Finance Director’ seemed unaware he was in fact Finance Director since another person also serves in the capacity.
After failing on numerous occasions to provide specific answers over the spending done by GPHC in 2015, Ali intervened and brought the proceedings to a close before ousting Johnson.
The PAC Chairman was adamant the actions on the part of the GHPC’s CEO, “is trying to frustrate the PAC, I believe the CEO, you, you are disrespectful…you came here before, you know who are the relevant offices that need to be before PAC.”
According to Ali, “this behaviour would not be tolerated, I will not allow you to waste the PAC’s time…we are going to ask you to leave this morning and we are going to get back to you and we hope you come back prepared the next time.”
He used the occasion to draw to Johnson’s attention the fact the Public is in an integral stakeholder in the process.
No plans to sanction
Ali had earlier clashed with CEO Johnson over the failure of the corporation to submit its financial statements for 2015 and 2016 and questioned what sanctions should be put in place against the technical or financial officers responsible.
Johnson told PAC, “we do have a plan to ensure that it gets done.”
Asked specifically about the action, if any, taken, Johnson answered in the negative prompting PAC Chair to retort “as CEO you are satisfied with this,” which was met with a long pause.
A seemingly frustrated PAC Chair further pressing the Hospital CEO on what actions will be taken over the failure of the hospital to keep with the legal requirements of the Public Corporations Act said, “I am going to write the finance director—sitting next to him—for him to state why it was not done and then proceed from there.”
It was pointed out by PPP Member Edghill that the breaches were unearthed in audit findings and known to the technical officers for several months and “he is going to come to PAC this morning to tell us, having had to answer a question that he is now going to the finance director to find out why this didn’t happen.”
Possible Consolidated Fund subversion
Edghill a former junior finance Minister under the previous Administration also used the opportunity during the brief session to question how much funds GPHC would hold in it accounts at the end of the year rather than returning the money to the Consolidated Fund.
An assurance was given that this was the case, but asked for some sort of documentation to corroborate claims that the monies are in fact returned to the treasury, the hospital team again found itself at loggerheads with the Parliamentary members of the Committee.
Johnson instead asked for time to provide that information and was given until Monday by Committee Chairman Ali.
Edghill sought to query how exactly GPHC was closing it books at the end of the year if there isn’t any documentation but by this time PAC Chairman observed that the GPHC CEO was in fact misleading the Parliamentary Committee.
According to Ali, based on information available to the Committee, the 2016 funds had not been returned to the Consolidated Fund—this despite the faithful assurance to the contrary by the Hospital CEO a few minutes earlier.
This conundrum lead to a more revealing line of questioning since Johnson at this time asked that the questions be directed to the Hospital’s Finance Director.
The PAC Chairman reminded the Finance Director, Charles, of the CEO’s assertion of the GPHC returning all monies to the treasury at the end of the year to which he responded “let me clarify.”
He told the Committee, all remaining monies from 2015 would have been returned to government but with regards to 2016, the Finance Director conceded there might still be some money outstanding for 2016 that may have to be returned to the treasury, but said that this still needs to be clarified.
The PAC Chairman objected to the response coming from the Finance Director of the Hospital and questioned if he was indeed the Finance Director?
Charles’ bizarre response left committee members visibly flabbergasted.
When asked by the PAC Chairman, “are you the Finance Director sir,” his response was “not for the Finance per say.”
Ali’s immediate response was to question what precisely he was Finance Director of, and it was at this point the Committee heard that there were is in fact two Finance Directors functioning at GPHC.
The Committee heard that the previous functionary had been sent on leave and Charles was being appointed Finance Director.
According to the PAC Chair, “I am (now) confused about what is going on here, when you introduced Mr Charles to the PAC today you said that he is the Finance Director, Mr Charles did not object to the introduction.”
Johnson reaffirmed that Charles is in fact the Finance Director.
Ali then questioned “are you paid as the Finance Director of the Georgetown Hospital,” to which Charles said “yes I am.”
An incensed Committee Chairman by this point declared to the Hospital CEO, “this place [GPHC] is in total confusion, you don’t even know who your Finance director is…the Finance Director is saying he is not in charge of finances.”
Having asserted his position before PAC as being the Finance Director of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation Charles told Committee Members he should be aware of the state of the finances of the entity but at the time he is not fully aware.
CEO Johnson at this point in time attempted to explain Charles’ presence before the PAC since the other finance director had reported sick two days earlier.
By the end of the PAC session MP Edgehill posited that the postulations on the part of the Hospital CEO could have been very well deliberate, “coming to PAC this morning with one member of staff who is not capable and in possession of all of the information.”