MARAD audit revealed ‘a kind of fraud that I have never seen before’

─culpable employees to be held responsible
-Minister Indar

Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Hon. Deodat Indar has condemned the damning findings of the recently released internal audit into the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) which revealed several irregularities.

Speaking with DPI, Minister Indar said he was appalled at the abuse of taxpayers’ dollars under the former Administration, noting that there are still incomplete works on State vessels.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Hon. Deodat Indar

“It is a kind of fraud that I have never seen before… I checked the tally on them, $657 million was paid to contractors through MARAD to repair four vessels and zero was done so far,” he said.

The sums were awarded through multiple contracts to Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited and its subsidiary, Brenco Shipping Company between 2015 and 2020 to rehabilitate four vessels.

Minister Indar relayed his frustration that mobilisation advances and subsequent payments were made without any verification by MARAD.  To this end, he said persons would be held accountable for the anomalies.

“No report of measured works was done. So, the persons who are culpable of that would have to answer and actions will be taken against them,” the Minister added.

On Tuesday, the Public Works Ministry disseminated the audit report which showed the aforementioned companies were paid $3.55 billion in contracts during the period 2015-2020.

Those contracts were for the procurement of spares and equipment and docking and rehabilitation of vessels, representing 92 per cent of the total amount paid for the same period.

Among the findings are that the companies were paid mobilisation advances well above the 30 per cent ceiling set by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, and a lack of documentation for projects.

For the latter, the contracts had missing Bills of Quantities (BOQ) that are needed to provide a breakdown of the contractual work to be done and the costs associated with every aspect of the project.

The audit has also brought internal controls at the agency under heavy criticism following evidence of conflict of interest and lack of checks and balances, among other matters.

Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill has requested that the Auditor General execute a forensic audit into the agency.

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