Region 4 Official admits Act wasn’t followed – PAC Chairman

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– 2015 audit report

…as $34.7M in cheques found in safe

Despite the strict regulations set out in the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMA) Act 2003, $34.7 million in cheques was found by State auditors who combed through the Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) treasury department.

This is according to the 2015 Audit Report, which flagged several discrepancies.

The 2015 Audit Report was presented by the Auditor General Deodat Sharma (right) to the Speaker of the House Barton Scotland

The report noted that after inspecting a safe in the sub-treasury, 142 of these cheques which were supposed to be refunded to the consolidated fund, were uncovered.

The Region Four Accounting Officer was brought before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament for an explanation, and according to PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali, the Officer admitted that the FMA guidelines were not being followed.

Ali related that the Officer recanted her initial explanation that the cheques were cut for retention payment, after she was cautioned by him about misleading the Committee.

REPORT

In the region’s response, the Auditor General had documented the Head of the Budget Agency’s explanation that the cheques were updated and paid over to the Consolidated Fund.

But the Auditor General made it clear in his recommendations that the Regional Administration has to ensure a full repayment of all amounts remaining at the end of the financial year.

After the cheques would have been returned, adjustments should have been made to the Appropriation Accounts. As a result, the Appropriation Account would be overstated by the said amount. The report notes that a sum of $237.3 million was budgeted in 2015 for Region Four to execute its capital programme. According to the Appropriation Account, the sum of $127.4 million was expended, resulting in the region missing its anticipated level of capital expenditure activities in 2015 by $109.9 million or 46.3 per cent. With regards to buildings, there was a shortfall of $83.1 million. For purchases, that shortfall was $21.2 million, while for public works it was $4.5 million.

The Auditor explained that the shortfall of $21.2 million was mainly due to the Regional Administration not acquiring three vehicles budgeted for the Administration, Health and Education Departments. On the other hand, the shortfall of $83.138 million in expenditure was mainly because of the Regional Administration not executing several projects.

Among those projects was the construction of the Grade ‘A’ Secondary School at Golden Grover and the construction of Eastville Nursery at Annandale. To redress this, the Auditor recommended earlier planning and execution in order to detect problems at an initial stage.The Auditor stressed that according to Section 43 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (2003) “at the end of each fiscal year, any unexpected balance of public monies issued out of the consolidated fund shall be returned and surrendered to the consolidated fund.”The revelation of this breach of the FMA Act comes after the PAC meeting on Monday. At that meeting, Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region One (Barima-Waini), Leslie Wilburg, was expelled from the National Assembly chamber.

At the time, he was being grilled by the PAC about $30 million in overpayments to eight contractors between the period of 2010 and 2011. He had claimed that the contractors were written to in March of last year.

Wilburg had also claimed that he had sought legal advice from Permanent Secretary of the Communities Ministry, Emile McGarrel. This was subsequently debunked by McGarrel and after a stern warning the REO was ordered to leave. (Guyana Times)

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