Kaieteur News news item, Saturday 13 June 2009
Nation’s coffers still being abused - AG Sharma
June 13, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under News
Problems that have been highlighted in previous Auditor General reports, have reoccurred in the latest report that was laid in the National Assembly, yesterday.
This is according to the nation’s Auditor General (ag), Deodat Sharma, who presented the 2007 report on the audit of the spending of state funds.
According to Sharma, the Contingency Fund is still being abused; there are still overpayments on contracts, missing vouchers, “old bank accounts not being closed as yet, especially those big overdrafts that continue.”
He said that the proceeds from the lotto fund are still not paid into contingency fund; and those funds are still being abused.
The report was delayed this year because of the staff constraints at the Audit Office. However, Mr Sharma promised to present the 2008 report by December.
Sharma also stated that the first value for money audit will be handed over come next month.
Following the handing over of the report, the Speaker of the National Assembly will lay the report in the National Assembly and will become public information after which the Public Accounts Committee meets and scrutinise the report.
The committee is currently scrutinising the 2006 report, which was replete with questionably scenarios at the various Ministries.
The 2006 report was used by the opposition to accuse the government of massive corruption, adding that the report was evidence of such corruption.
The Auditor General’s Report for 2006 highlighted breaches of the Procurement Act, as well as the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act.
The Opposition parties have long been calling for the Audit Office to be outfitted with its full staff complement. They have also been calling for the appointment of Deodat Sharma to the substantive post of Auditor General, rather than to have him remain acting.
According to the 2006 report presented yesterday, the Auditor General, the Contingency Fund is continuously abused, with amounts drawn from the fund being utilised to meet expenditure that did not meet the eligibility criteria as defined in the Act.
“According to the Statement, amounts totalling $3.945 billion were drawn from the fund by way of 138 advances. As at 31 December 2006, forty-nine of these advances, totalling $1.721 billion, remained outstanding.”
In relation to the Customs and Trade Administration, the Auditor General noted that 17 Permits for Immediate Delivery (PID), with a total value of $2.832 billion, had not yet been perfected at the time of the audit in January 2007.
Incoming vessels at ports in Guyana numbered 1,089 for 2006. However, completed ships’ files in respect of 243 ships were not submitted to the Quality Review Section, and as such were not made available for audit examination.
It was also noted in the report, that several Ministries and departments recorded overstatements on their appropriation accounts, and the unspent amounts have not been refunded. “Subvention agencies are not returning the unspent portions of amounts paid over to them for specific expenditure.”
The Auditor General also stated in his report what he called the overpayment of contracts. “Several Ministries and regions have not recovered amounts overpaid on various contracts in prior periods. In addition, some of these Ministries and regions, such as Education, Amerindian Affairs, Regions Two, Three, Six, Seven and Ten, continued to have overpayments on various contracts during 2006.
“One such example was recorded under the Ministry of Education, where $10.982M was overpaid on eleven projects which were mainly for the rehabilitation and extension to schools.”
But Finance Minister Ashni Singh, in an interview with this newspaper, said that it was regrettable that, in some instances, the Auditor General’s Report did not in every case reflect the explanations that would have been proffered by the various Government ministries and departments.
The Auditor General is required by law to have included in the report explanations for issues that raised an eyebrow.
“I would say that, in the overwhelming majority of instances, the issues that have been reported by the Auditor General have explanations that in many cases would have been offered by the respective Government Ministries and departments.”
The Finance Minister also stated that what was also regrettable, was that some of the issues were being highlighted sensationally in the media, when, in fact, if one were to understand and examine them properly, one would see that there is no question of impropriety at all.