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Four officials from Region Two, who signed off on a contract for the construction of a pump house at Karawab Health Centre that is nowhere to be found more than four years after it was paid for in full, have been summoned to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament of Guyana.
The pump house, which formed part of rehabilitative works to a Water Trestle at Karawab Health Center, was among issues that took center stage when the 2017 and 2018 Auditor General Reports for Region Two (Pomeroon-Supernaam) were scrutinized by the PAC on Monday.
According to the 2017 Auditor General Report, the contract for general repairs to the Water Trestle at Karawab Health Center was awarded by the Regional Tender Board in the sum of $1.748M to the lowest of eight bidders. The engineer’s estimate, however, was $2.685M.
A total of $1.648M was paid for “works completed,” however, when checks were made by the Audit Office, it was revealed that contractor was over paid $381,000 of which $200,000 was for the construction of a pump house.
It was People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament, Dharamkumar Seeraj who brought the issue to the fore. MP Seeraj questioned the Regional Executive Officer (REO) Susanah Saywack why payment was made in full for the supply and installation of a pump, when there is clearly no pump in place.
Saywack, in response, said “it is clear that verification was not made.” Notably, Saywack was not the REO at the time of the project.
Nonetheless, MP Seeraj continued his interrogation, turning his attention to what was later described as an “invisible” pump house, which was paid for in full by the Region.
“How is it possible for payments to be made for a pump house that was never constructed?” MP Seeraj questioned.
In response, the REO said she was in no position to provide the PAC with an accurate response. However, she informed the PAC that at the time of the project, the REO was Rupert Hopkinson while the engineer was Latchman Singh. Additionally, the Superintendent of Works was Dinesh Mohan and the Chairman of the Public Works Committee was Juliet Coonjah.
According to Saywack, the four officials – Hopkinson, Singh, Mohan and Coonjah – all signed off on the project as completed.
Weighing in on the issue, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) MP Ganesh Mahipaul, pointed out that Coonjah was also the Regional Vice Chairman at the time.
MP Mahipaul expressed shock and disappointment that Coonjah having been elected to serve the people of Region Two, signed off on the payment certificate for the project, which was undoubtedly incomplete.
“I find it strange that the engineer, who at the time was Latchman Singh; the Superintendent of Works, at the time, Dinesh Mohan; and the Works Committee Chairman, at the time Vice Chairman Juliet Coonjah, placed their signatures on a document, verifying that final payment should be made for this pump house, and the pump house is not in existence. Something is wrong there, a pump house is something tangible, you can see it,” MP Mahipaul said.
He said one would have expected that the Works Committee would not only oversee projects, but ensure that they are done to specification.
“This is high level corruption that is facilitated by the Chairman of the Works Committee,” the APNU+AFC MP said.
He added: “In this instance, you have the Chairman of the Works Committee, who was a councillor, elected by the people of Region Two and was the Vice Chairman of the Region.”
MP Mahipaul was keen on pointing out that though the year under review was during the APNU+AFC’s time in office, the Vice Chairman of Region Two was extracted from the PPP/C List of Candidates.
He proposed that Coonjah, Singh and Mohan be summoned to appear before the committee to answer why payments were made for aspects of the projects never done. MP Seeraj further recommended that Hopkinson be summons as well. Hopkinson is reportedly out of the jurisdiction, however, it was noted that he can appear virtually.
Based on the recommendations, the Chairman of the PAC Jermaine Figueira indicated that the officials would be required to appear before the Committee next Monday.