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Seven years after the Amerindian Affairs Ministry overpaid a contractor $8.597M for the excavation, land filling and construction of concrete drains at the student dormitory at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara (ECD), the money is yet to be recovered.
The Audit Office of Guyana, in its Report on the Public Accounts of Guyana for the Fiscal Year ending December 31, 2019, explained that the contractual sum totaled $14M, but a thorough investigation revealed that the contractor was overpaid a hefty $8.597M when the contract was awarded in 2013.
“Based on physical verification in April 2013 and a subsequent revisit in April 2014, where measurements were also taken, it was determined that the sum overpaid to the contractor was $8.597M,” the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, said in his report. He was keen on pointing out that the Ministry sought legal advice from the Solicitor General’s Office but the advice has not been forthcoming.
The Auditor General said as of November 2020, the Amerindian Affairs Minister had not recovered the money.
This issue, which dates back to the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration pre-2015, was among issues raised when the accounts of the Amerindian Affairs Ministry were placed under the microscope by the Auditor General and team.
In the report, which was laid in the National Assembly recently, the Amerindian Affairs Ministry was cited for breach of Section 43 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, which mandates that all unspent balances shall be returned to the Consolidated Fund at the end of the Fiscal Year.
“Moreover, audit checks conducted in January 2020, revealed that the Ministry had on hand, 351 cheques drawn for sums totaling $315.938M,” the Auditor General said, while noting that there was a similar occurrence in 2018, in which there were 115 cheques drawn for a total of $226.279M.
“Of the 351 cheques, 316 drawn for sums totalling $268.674M were dated 2 January 2020. The difference of thirty-five cheques totalling $47.264M were drawn on various dates, and dated back as far as May 2019. At the time of this report in October 2020, the Ministry still had twenty-two cheques for amounts totalling $17.367M on hand. These cheques have since become stale-dated,” the AG further disclosed.
In response to the concern raised by the Auditor General, the Amerindian Affairs Ministry explained that there were six cheque order payments at the Ministry totaling $3.686M while the other cheques were directed to the Ministry of Finance.
Additionally, in 2019, the sum of $702.698M was budgeted for payment of retention, completion of the Green Enterprise Development Centre, provision of the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service Project, presidential grants and support to eco-tourism and cultural projects. Monies were also budgeted for the provision of agro-processing facilities, ground coffee production, lapidary workshop and tractors, and the construction of benabs, bridges and the upgrading of trails. However, only $690.288M was utilized.
Notably, the Amerindian Affairs Ministry issued 202 Village Councils with presidential grants totaling $230.392M. The Auditor General expressed concern, however, that seven of the villages – Hobodeia in Region One; River’s View in Region Three; Bashville/Yawong, Fair View, Kanapang and Kato in Region Eight; and Muritaro in Region 10, received their grants totaling $5.4M on January 2, 2020, after the close of the financial year in breach of the FMA.