-Audit into company still ongoing but information not forthcoming- Auditor General
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has called for the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) to carry out investigations into D’Urban Park. This is in light of concerns regarding the financial transparency and accountability of the project.
In a letter to Procurement Commission Chairperson Carol Corbin, Opposition parliamentarian Juan Edghill invited the Commission to get involved. The letter, which is dated September 25, identifies aspects of the project the Party is most concerned about.
Edghill, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), noted that despite promises to the contrary, no account of donations received between September 2015 and January 2016, was made public. It therefore queried the procurement process used for works on the project.
The scope a private company has to engage contractors and receive funding for a public project also came into question.
The party also queried the budgeted and actual cost throughout the project, as well as the final cost. In addition, the party demanded information on what payments were made to individuals and contractors up to June.
“In November 2016, public monies – a total of $406.7 million – were sought from the Contingency Fund and were approved by the majority in the National Assembly to pay contractors and suppliers of goods and services for work done at the project.”
In December 2016, an additional $500 million from the Consolidated Fund was sought by the Public Infrastructure Ministry and approved by the majority, the Party said, adding “We were told in the Committee of Supply of the National Assembly that the sums approved would be given to the Homestretch Development Inc, to honour its financial obligations to contractors and suppliers.”
Homestretch Development Inc (HDI) is a special purpose company that was set up in 2016 to facilitate the project’s completion and collect monies. According to Edghill in the letter, this was the first time that the name of this company was made public.
“The company was registered on January 22, 2016, and its number is 8247. The registered address is Lot 18 Lamaha Street. From its inception to April 21, 2016, the private company, HDI, had control of financing and managing the project,” Edghill noted, adding that an estimated $1.5 billion was spent on the project from April, 2016 to June 2017.
Earlier in the year, PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali had requested further probing be done by the Auditor General (AG), Deodat Sharma, into specific projects. Among those projects was the D’Urban Park Project, for which the AG in his 2015 report listed some $36.5 million in lotto funds being used for rehabilitative works.
In his 2015 report, the Auditor General had said that following checks on the accounts, it was found that while Government transferred $1 billion of the lotto money to the Consolidated Fund in 2015, it held onto just over half a billion dollars to remain under the control of the Ministry of the Presidency and it spent $305 million on various activities.
According to a breakdown of the expenditure provided by the Auditor General, $36.5 million went towards the rehabilitation of D’Urban Park; $63.7 million went towards Mashramani celebrations; while another $51.5 million was utilised for ‘music’.
But it turns out that the audit into the D’Urban Park project has been hindered by a lack of access to pertinent information, with the Audit Office being forced to write to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure requesting documents.
This was revealed by Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who spoke to the media on the sidelines of the handing over of his 2016 report. According to Sharma, he wrote the Ministry requesting information on Homestretch Development Inc.
“I’ve written to the Ministry of Public (Infrastructure),” he related. “I need to know information concerning that company that was established to set up the D’Urban Park. (But) information is not coming.”
Notwithstanding the trouble to access information, however, Sharma stated that the audit was still ongoing.