Region Three’s 2016 audited health sector under heavy scrutiny by PAC
DPI, Guyana, Monday, March 26, 2018
The Public Accounts Committee met with the Administration of the Essequibo Islands-West Demerara Region Three to consider the region’s audited accounts for the year 2016. This meeting was held on Monday, March 26, in the Parliament chambers.
Committee members present were Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence and Members of Parliament, Audwin Rutherford, Jermaine Figueira, Nigel Dharamlall, Juan Edghill and Pauline Sukhai.
The administration led by Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region Three, Denis Jaikarran were questioned according to the respective sectors of management, financial allocations and other matters related to public accounts that are to be addressed.
One of the areas coming under heavy scrutiny in the region was procurement, acquisition and storage of drugs and medical supplies. Committee members took the opportunity to place most of their focus throughout considerations on the region’s health sector.
With regards to the purchase of drugs and medical supplies, observations indicated that the Regional administration issued funds to the Ministry of Public Health for central procurement. The funds were recorded as $221.088M in July of 2016 and 77.012M in December 2016.
Records, however, show that only $ 86.181M of these two sums was expended but all listed drugs and medical supplies for procurement were received by the region. The PAC questioned many aspects of this observation.
The Regional Health Officer, Dr. Ravindra Dudhnauth, who took up his post in October 2017 indicated that based on records he reviewed, the region would have still suffered shortages of drugs and medical supplies. He also stated that all listed drugs were indeed received.
Dudhnauth, who is still junior in the administrative capacity as RHO, was unable to address other questions regarding the funding and how much was actually utilised by the central procuring agency for these purchases.
According to an explanation offered on record by the REO to auditors, “the previous regional Health Officer had written on 18 August 2017, requesting a report on the value of drugs and medical supplies delivered, compared to sums warranted by regional administration.”
An inventory of expired drugs, valued at approximately $5.4M is still in the region, according to Dudhnauth. The REO’s explanation, as stated in the Auditor General’s report, indicated that “those items are stored until they are verified and destroyed by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD). A letter was (also) written by RHO on August 21, 2017, officially requesting the removal and destruction of the expired drugs.”
Even to the point of review at PAC, there has been no response from the GA-FDD concerning this. Further, with regards to storage of these expired and other drugs and also record keeping in the region, both the REO and RHO were unable to provide the PAC with adequate information.
Concerning record keeping for critical sectors like these, Committee Member, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, directed questions to both the Accountant General and Auditor General to determine when a computerised accounting and recordkeeping system will be facilitated.
In response to this, the Ministry of Finance’s Accountant General, Jennifer Chapman assured members of the PAC that a computerised and automated system for management of public accounts and inventory is currently being piloted at the Finance Ministry.
This will be able to assist agencies with forthcoming information and the provision of details in a timely manner, eliminating the need to peruse excessive paperwork and to keep track of critical accounting records.
By: Delicia Haynes