Public Accounts Committee dissatisfied with responses given by Region Eight REO during meeting
GINA, GUYANA, Monday, April 10, 2o17
The Regional Executive Officer for Region Eight, Rafel Downes was unable to answer directly what measures were put in place to avoid incidences of overpayment to several contractors.
These were among issues brought to the fore during today’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting at Parliament Chambers.
It was noted that these occurrences, along with several other cases of financial mismanagement have been happening over the last two years according to the PAC Chairman, Irfaan Ali.
Downes was reminded, by the Chairman and other PAC members, that he had promised to put measures in place to address the situation.
PAC member Charandass Persaud advised that the REO dispatch lawyers’ letters threatening the errant contractors with legal action.
The lack of action by the REO, in terms of recovering the monies owed, was blasted by other PAC members who questioned the seriousness of the Regional Administration in taking the requisite actions.
According to PAC member Juan Edghill, “The recommendations of the PAC are not being treated with the necessary level of seriousness.” This view was expressed after it was revealed that at least five of the 11 delinquent contractors actually tendered and signed additional contract documents at the REO’s office, yet no effort was taken to have the them sign letters of commitment stating that they intended to repay any monies overpaid.
The PAC Chairman recalled that a commitment was given that the Ministry of Communities would be engaged to advise on the way forward. “This cannot be accepted since it was supposed to be done since 2015!” PAC Chairman Ali stated, as he noted that, “A letter, which was not about the subject matter, was only sent to the Ministry until February 2017.”
The reason for this lack of action was questioned and after several minutes of queries, the REO apologised for his tardiness and proffered that he spoke to errant contractors about the monies owed. The REO was then asked what he would have done if a subordinate officer had also taken that long to carry out an instruction. In response, he said that he would be very antagonistic towards that officer.
The name of one contractor, Nigel Forde was then put to the REO about the sums he still owes. The sum of money amounting to more than $3M is still outstanding by Forde and the question was then asked why there was no real commitment by the contractor to repay what he owes. The REO was unable to give an answer.
Offering his opinion, Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance Dr. Hector Butts said that he was disgusted at what was taking place. He reminded that, “The Ministry has an open-door policy yet the REO and his officials have yet to take advantage of this facility.”
The PAC meeting was suspended after the PAC Chairman opined that the REO was only bluffing in relation to the recommendations made since last year, none of which were implemented. The PAC Chairman then requested, once again that all of the outstanding recommendations be implemented.
A request was also made by PAC member Edghill that measures be put in place to ensure that regional officials are actually ready to appear before the PAC, as “Most of the afternoon was seemingly wasted by the evasive non-answers given.”
Giving a response was Dr. Butts who noted that the aforementioned meetings were held but the REO and his staff were “dancing with respect to answers.”
The meeting was then adjourned until further notice. The REO was then instructed to get the information requested and provide answers to the Finance Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, the Accountant General and the Auditor General’s Office.
The PAC will be recommending that specific action be taken when it delivers its report to the National Assembly. A request has also been made to the Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan that action be taken against the REO, and the PAC has requested that a response by given in one week.
The PAC is in the process of meeting with Regional Officials to address some of the financial issues and challenges faced in the 10 administrative regions.
By: Paul McAdam