PAC probes millions spent on ‘unaccounted drugs’ under APNU+AFC Govt

0

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday probed millions of dollars that were spent on drugs and medical supplies by the Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) Administration, but which could not be accounted for at the time of the 2017 Auditor General Report.

Officials from the Region Three administration, including Regional Executive Officer (REO) Jagnarine Somwar and his predecessor, Dennis Jaikarran, appeared before the PAC. During the hearing, PAC member Dr Vishwa Mahadeo questioned them on the Auditor General’s findings in his 2017 report.

Mahadeo pointed out that $60.4 million was spent on drugs and medical supplies by the regional administration. However, voucher examinations revealed that $4.1 million worth in drugs and medical supplies purchased that year could not be traced to the goods received.

Additionally, it was found that nine payment vouchers totalling $10.4 million to purchase drugs and medical supplies could not be located. Thus, these documents were not presented to the Auditor General for audit.

Dr Mahadeo questioned whether these missing vouchers were ever recovered and what systems were in place, to prevent a reoccurrence. In response, the REO said that some of the vouchers have actually been located.

“We have been able to locate three of those vouchers… (totalling) $9.1 million,” the REO explained, to which Dr Mahadeo noted that this meant that $1.3 million in payment vouchers was still outstanding. According to the REO, they will seek the guidance of the Auditor General’s office.

“At this point in time, what we have now in place is a goods received book in place. Before that, there was no goods received book or if there were, we could not have found it. So, we have that in place. That would have been able to correct the situation from then,” he explained.

It was subsequently clarified by the storekeeper that they were able to locate the full amount in payment vouchers from the sub-treasury. The REO, meanwhile, explained that based on advice from the Regional Health Officer (RHO) , any request for emergency supplies requires the RHO to make a formal request to the REO through the purchasing department.

Jaikarran was one of several REOs that the Local Government and Regional Development Ministry had given their marching orders, days after the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) took office in August of 2020.

Besides Jaikarran, the REOs relieved of duty were Randolph Storm from Region One (Barima-Waini); Ovid Morrison from Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice); Jennifer Ferreira Dougal from Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Kim Stephen-Williams from Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne); Carl Parker from Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and Orrin Gordon from Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice).

At the time, Minister Nigel Dharamlall had said that “the Ministry lost confidence in their ability to perform. Their deportment was inimical to the effective and efficient functioning of the regions they managed. Moreover, they practised heavy partisan politics…They were void of professionalism and impartiality”.