The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday probed payments that were approved and paid by Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) officials for a pumphouse that does not exist and a pump that was not delivered.
Auditor General Deodat Sharma had flagged overpayments on a contract for a water trestle at Karawab Health Center in his 2017 report. There was also an issue with money that was approved for a pump and a pump station. However, neither of these items can be found.
During PAC’s statutory meeting on Monday, Region Two Regional Executive Officer (REO) Susanah Saywack and her officials were none the wiser as to the whereabouts of the pump or pump station. She said, however, that verifications were not made before the payments were approved.
“It’s very clear that verification was not made, but how is it possible? You don’t have any information as to why, in perusing the records, why is it payments were approved for a pump that was never bought or installed?” PAC Member Dharamkumar Seeraj questioned, to which Saywack confirmed that she did not have such documents.
“The bill of quantities provides for the construction of a pump house. Payments were processed and paid to the contractor for this pumphouse. But there is no pump house to be found by the Auditor General office. Again, how is it possible for payments to be made for a pump house that was never constructed?” Seeraj further probed.
Saywack, who has been the REO since last year, could not provide any answers for this either. Additionally, the engineer present at the PAC meeting was also at a loss, though he admitted he was aware of the project.
It was related by the then REO that the signatures of the regional engineer, the superintendent of works, as well as the Region two Vice Chairperson at the time, were affixed to the certificate of completion. A decision was therefore taken to have these officers make an appearance before the PAC at its next meeting.
“Again, I make the point, the person who visited the site placed their signature as the guiding document to the REO. So, the REO sat in his office, received a document with the signature of three persons… the Engineer, the Superintendent of Work and the Vice Chairman, who was the Works Committee Chairman,” PAC member Ganesh Mahipaul said.
Meanwhile, PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira said that the officers in question would be invited to join the PAC at its next sitting, presumably on Monday. This is a proposal that was agreed to by the committee. Additionally, Figueira said that efforts would be made to contact the then REO to respond to the PAC’s questions.
Saywack succeeded former REO Devanand Ramdatt last year, after he was sent on leave. In 2017, the Regional Executive Officer (REO) for Region Two was Rupert Hopkinson, whose tenure was marred by controversy.
There have been protests against the former REO and in 2018, then Regional Chairman Ramdatt had said that the RDC had no confidence in Hopkinson. The RDC had also met in 2018 to discuss matters discussed involved the abuse of millions of dollars from the RDC’s Economic Project Amounts; poor implementation of projects that have already started in 2018.
Other matters that were discussed concerning Hopkinson’s tenure were delays in signing vouchers; insanitary and unsafe conditions of many schools; and persons contracted to clean school compounds and road shoulders have been waiting to be paid since 2017 and 2016 respectively.