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…under performed in critical sub-divisions in 2019
The Ministry of Agriculture, under the leadership of Noel Holder, spent approximately $14M to maintain seven vehicles over a two-year period, while failing to execute several critical projects in the area of Drainage and Irrigation.
This is according to the Auditor General, Deodat Sharma. In his Report on the Public Accounts of Guyana for the Fiscal Year ended December 31, 2019, the Auditor General detailed that while $33.644M was expected for the maintenance of vehicles within the Ministry of Agriculture, seven were of particular concern.
According to the Auditor General, the Agriculture Ministry repaired a Land Cruiser at a cost of $3.019M in 2019, one year after the very vehicle was repaired at a cost of $3.398M. Between 2018 and 2019, the Ministry injected $6.417M into repairing the Land Cruiser. A Hilux Surf was also maintained at a cost of $1.588M in 2019, although 705,000 had been used the year before to repair it. Two Double Cab vehicles were repaired at a collective cost of $2M, while X-Trail Vehicle was repaired using $135,000 in 2018, and another $840,000 in 2019, a total of $975,000. Another Double Cab vehicle was repaired at a cost of $1.366M over the two year period while $1.159M was injected into maintaining a minibus.
In response to the concern raised by the Auditor General, the Ministry said the expenditure was necessary to ensure the safety of staff and the availability of transportation to carry out day-to-day activities.
“The Audit Office recommends that the Ministry monitor the cost for maintaining the above vehicles and consider approaching the Ministry of Finance with a view of obtaining the necessary funds to replace them since this is likely to result in significant cost savings,” the Auditor General urged the Ministry.
Further, $4.615B was allocated to the Ministry for four capital programmes – Administration, Agriculture Development and Support Services, Aquaculture Development and Hydro Metrology – but only $3.244B was expended by the end of December 31, 2019 resulting in a shortfall of $1.371B or 30 per cent.
“This is an indication that the Ministry did not execute its anticipated level of capital activities during the period under review,” Sharma noted, while adding that further significant shortfalls were recorded within the programmes.
Under Programme 1 – Ministry Administration – $669.379M was budgeted for Drainage and Irrigation Pumps but only $75.8M had been expended at the end of 2019, representing a shortfall of $593.5M or 89 per cent. Similarly, $320M was budgeted for Flood Risk Management but only $204.8M was spent resulting in a shortfall of $115.140M or 36 per cent. Government, through the Agriculture Ministry, had budgeted $30M for the Reverse Linkage Programme – Rice Development but at the end of 2019, the money had been untouched, resulting in a 100 per cent shortfall.
“The sum of $669M was provided for Drainage and Irrigation Pumps and Institutional Strengthening- INDIA. However, according to the Appropriation Account as at 31 December 2019 only the sum of $75.804M was expended resulting in a shortfall of $593.575M or 89% in expenditure. Noteworthy is that although sums were budgeted for in 2017 and 2018 under this project, the allocations were not expended. As a result, the intended benefits of this project, which included improved drainage and irrigation in selected regions, and improved agricultural output, could be delayed,” the Auditor General explained.
The Agriculture Ministry, in response, explained that the project suffered several setbacks which were only resolved in April 2019, when the advance payment guarantee and the performance security were received from the contractor.
“The advance payment amounting to G$75.8M was made to the contractor, leaving a balance of G$593.575M. This sum represents costs for nine fixed pumps, three mobile pumps, spares and installation services. However, the pumps only arrived in Guyana in March 2020, hence the reason for the under spending in 2019. The next phase of the project is the installation of the pumps by personnel from India; however, this process has been delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the Agriculture Ministry explained.
Turning his attention to the Flood Risk Management Project, the Auditor General explained that in October 2014, the International Development Association (IDA) and the Government of Guyana (GoG) entered into an agreement to assist in the reduction of the risk of flooding in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica). In 2019, the $320M was allotted for the rehabilitation of sections of East Demerara Water Conservancy embankment; Hydrology and hydraulic modelling of the East Demerara Water Conservancy; design and construction of pump station at Liliendaal; and procurement of earthmoving equipment. However, at the end of 2019, only $204.860M was expended resulting in a shortfall of $115.140M or 36% in expenditure.
“According to the Work Plan, the project planned to expend amounts totalling US$1,535,296 during 2019. However, amounts totalling US$982,541 or 64% of the planned expenditure was achieved [but several other components were not met]. As a result, the project did not achieve its objectives within the stipulated time and the intended benefits which included improved drainage and irrigation being delayed. Notwithstanding this, approval was granted for an extension of project to 20 January 2021 which will allow for the completion of the activities,” the Audit Office explained.
Like the other projects, the Reverse Linkage Programme had experienced significant challenges.