Guyana Chronicle audit: GM yet to provide receipts for overseas travel

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The former Deputy Mayor of Georgetown, Sherod Duncan, was appointed the GM of the Guyana Chronicle only in May of this year

A recent audit into the management of resources at the Guyana National Newspaper Limited has revealed several breaches in the disbursement of monies for services and employment procedures.

Chateram Ramdihal Chartered Accountants Professional Services Firm, which is also known as Ramdihal and Haynes Inc, was contracted by the Auditor General to conduct a special audit on the overall management and governance of the Guyana Chronicle for the period of June 1, 2018 to September 10, 2018.

The objective was to determine whether the spending of funds was in accordance with principles and regulations of the company.

A document containing the findings was leaked to INews; it indicated that the General Manager, Sherod Duncan took an overseas trip with the marketing coordinator for the resuscitation of the publication’s New York edition. This trip cost an excess of $736,028, but there was no approval from the Minister for such an event and to date, no relevant documents were brought forward to support these expenditures.

Meanwhile, Duncan, a member of the Alliance for Change (AFC), had travelled again in June to Lethem and was given an allowance of $200,000. In that instance, the Management Tender Committee did not give approval for his travel, and documents are also still pending.

According to the audit, Duncan also expended some $721,000 to repair one of the company’s vehicles which he used, but there were no contract to validate such and these payments were made without the established approval process.

Apart from financial errors, the audit report demonstrates that an editor by the name of Godfrey Wray was terminated upon instruction from the General Manager. But Wray’s personnel file did not indicate that his performance was poor. The services of a finance controller were also terminated by Duncan in September without notice, which is not in compliance with the Personnel Policy and Procedures Manual.

According to the audit, Duncan also proceeded to hire one Adrian Persaud as the company’s social media coordinator, but a look at his recruitment indicated that the vacancy was not advertised internally or externally and no evidence of his qualification was provided at that time.

Tender breaches

The Guyana Chronicle has a Management Tender Committee, which approves transactions ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 before payments are made. But during the stipulated time examined, no approval was given for nine such transactions valued at $1.6 million, the audit stated.

Further, five transactions valued at a total of $2.1 million were never approved by the Corporation Tender Committee, which approves expenditure valued between $300,000 and $1 million.

Meanwhile, for the four months examined, some $2.3 million was spent to increase the entity’s social media presence in the areas of live streaming, social boosts and the social media department, but the company’s budget for 2018 did not make any provisions for this. Furniture was also acquired for over $2.5 million without any budgetary allocation.

In light of the probe, Duncan was sent on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and audit.

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