Forensic audit of SLED projects financed by APNU+AFC unearths multiple discrepancies

projects abandoned, inoperable or non-functional

Four co-operative societies awarded funding by the APNU+AFC government under the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme were never operationalised despite being allocated millions of dollars.

This was revealed in the audit report of the forensic investigation of the programme for the years 2018 to 2020, under APNU+AFC’s tenure.

According to the report, which was conducted by ECLISAR Financial and Professional Services, the Kwebanna Farming Co-operative Society Limited’s Greenhouse Farming Project, which was supposed to be executed in Region One, and the Ykinipa Humming Bird Rainforest Co-operative Society, the Grand Victoria, Pomeroon Jam Factory and the Martindale/ Hackney Multipurpose Co-operative Society Limited in Region Two, were never operationalised.

Not only were multiple co-operative societies out of operation, but more than 30 projects awarded funding under the SLED programme are currently ‘abandoned’, ‘inoperable’, or ‘non-functional’.

The report also highlights that as many as 16 groups benefitted from SLED grants while not being registered under the Department of Co-operatives of the Ministry of Labour, which is the oversight body for co-ops in Guyana.

Additionally, some 20 SLED grant recipients were non-compliant with either the Co-operative Societies Act or Friendly Society Act; a number of groups could not provide documents for registration or payment information; and in a number of co-ops, the objective of the project for which funding was allocated was not met.

In other instances, the report highlighted that individuals, rather than societies, were operating facilities described in the proposed projects.

The report further details situations where it was difficult to verify the existence of several projects, as their locations could not be found, and discoveries of funds being allocated directly through the then Ministry of Social Protection, rather than the Department of Co-operatives.

Some co-operative societies had dissolved entirely, with funds either being distributed among members or purchased assets remaining unused within the project facilities.

Further, there was no effective monitoring in place to ensure the smooth functioning of these societies.

Between 2018 and 2020, the APNU+AFC disbursed some $371 million under SLED for the execution of development projects across the 10 administrative regions of Guyana.

After assuming office in 2020, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, authorised the ‘Integrity Audit’ after numerous questions and complaints were raised about the questionable disbursement of taxpayers’ dollars to individuals and groups under the guise of being co-operative societies.

The report was finalised and handed over on April 17, 2023.