Education Minister refers questions on audit of UG finances to Council

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Education Minister, Nicolette Henry

After requesting that the Audit Office of Guyana (AOG) conduct an audit into the University of Guyana (UG) finances, the Education Ministry mysteriously withdrew its request for the audit. Now, it is deferring to the UG council when asked for an explanation.

In a brief interview with INews, Education Minister Nicolette Henry was asked about the reasons behind the Ministry’s decision to withdraw its request for the audit and was now disinclined to pay the auditor that the AOG procured. But the Minister referred all questions to UG.

“The University of Guyana is managed by a council. I would appreciate if you direct the question to the council so far as its operations are concerned,” she said, adding that the Ministry would be willing to provide any additional clarity.

When the Ministry withdrew its request, the audit office had heeded widespread calls to continue the exercise anyway. But on Monday, Auditor General Deodat Sharma had revealed in an interview with this publication that the special audit had been stalled until authorities can figure out who will stand the expense involved in conducting the probe.

Initially, the Audit Office of Guyana had contracted an independent company to conduct the much-needed and highly-anticipated audit into UG – in light of allegations of the mismanagement of funds.

The audit was first ordered by the Education Ministry after a request was made by the two workers’ unions at UG to have such an investigation launched. The Ministry was going to stand the expense associated with the investigation.

However, INews was told that shortly after the independent company commenced its work into the matter, the Education Ministry withdrew its request for the audit with no explanation given.

Nonetheless, the Audit Office had committed to going ahead with the probe. But according to Auditor General (AG) Deodat Sharma, owing to issues regarding lack of finances, the audit is currently at a standstill.

Less than three weeks ago, AG Sharma had noted that the backlog of years that UG did not complete its audited financial statements was a cause for worry.

UG’s administration has previously been accused of wanton spending— including hosting several events, standing the expenses of meals and accommodation for guest speakers, as well as hiring select individuals, paying them super salaries, and sending large delegations overseas, all on the University’s bill. Former Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith had always denied those claims.

The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) had levelled these accusations in particular. The Unions had joined forces to question why monies were allocated in previous budgets to entities which do not exist and what became of those funds.