Disciplinary action is expected to be taken against Region 2 Regional Executive Officer (REO) Rupert Hopkinson after he admitted- to Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Irfaan Ali – to contravening the financial laws by using savings from current expenditures in order to execute capital projects in Region Two.
“Are you aware that this is a contravention?” the PAC Chairman asked Hopkinson, who replied in the affirmative.
“And knowing that you are aware this is a contravention, why did you contravene the regulations?” Ali asked.
“Let me preface my response by saying that in all these cases, the heads of programmes met, and it is with their concurrence that this programme (was done),” Hopkinson replied.
Asked to confirm that he was admitting to breaching the law with the concurrence of the heads of programmes, Hopkinson said, “Not really.” According to the REO, all the projects were of an emergency nature.
The projects included the construction of a bus shed at Dartmouth, construction of the Anna Regina Health Centre, construction of a fence at Unity Park Phase 1, construction of a fence at Unity Park Phase 2, construction of sitting area at Cotton Field, and construction of a landing at Liberty, Pomeroon.
At this point, Ali slammed Hopkinson for being aware of breaches of the law, yet going ahead with the projects out of the belief that they were in the best interest of the region.
“We were not aware of the breaches at the time,” Hopkinson said in response to Ali’s admonitions. “We were all caught up in the fact that we saved a lot of money.
So we said, ‘Look, this is what we want done.’ We saved $250 million, we were excited about the fact that we saved,” Hopkinson replied.
“And your excitement led to the breach?” Ali asked, to which Hopkinson responded, “Yes sir.”
The REO’s responses did little to help his case, and an unamused Ali berated the officer for his responses, proposing to the Finance Secretary that disciplinary measures be pursued against Hopkinson.
“A way forward has already been established. I am proposing that the Finance Secretary take the necessary action that he’s empowered to take in relation to this. I would say that he cares very little about what we’re saying, and his response via this document is even more worrying when you look at the concluding paragraphs,” Ali declared.
“When you’re functioning as an accounting officer in the public service, rules and regulations are there to ensure checks and balance, transparency, accountability to standards. The Auditor General audits according to certain standards, and when an accounting officer says to you he knows what the rules are and out of excitement he went ahead without adhering to the rules, I worry,” Ali said.