2015 Auditor General’s Report– AG to hand over report to House Speaker todayAuditor General Deodat Sharma is expected to hand over the 2015 Auditor General’s Report to Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland later today and according to top officials in the Audit Office of Guyana, the report is expected to highlight the continued abuse of the Contingency Fund by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition which took office in May 2015.Flashback: Deodat Sharma, Auditor General of Guyana, handing over the 2014 Auditor General’s Report to Dr Barton Scotland, Speaker of the National AssemblyThe APNU/AFC while in Opposition, complained bitterly about similar acts by the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.A senior functionary within the Audit Office, who has access to the audit information, told Guyana Times that there are a series of abuses of the Contingency Fund by the APNU/AFC Administration during 2015, the Fiscal year under review. The source said the abuse continued into 2016, pointing to the single-sourcing of the controversial Sussex Street Drug Bond as a prime example.Speaking directly about the period under review, the official confirmed that the 2015 Audit Report is expected to highlight a number of abuses, including the Supplementary Financial Paper No 3 of 2015 which saw a total of $799,897,637 being utilised from the Contingency Fund for the period September 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015.One of the withdrawals expected to be highlighted in the report is the $48 million for the purchase of furniture and equipment for the Ministry of the Presidency and State House, as well as the installation of 6000 solar systems at the President’s official residence, which is not deemed to be of any “urgency”.The 2015 Audit report is also expected to highlight a $77 million advance from the said Fund for the provision of salary increases and a one-off tax free payment for the University of Guyana at the Turkeyen and Tain locations.Then there is the $11 million withdrawal from the Contingency Fund in 2015 as part payment to the Guyana National Newspapers Limited, the publisher of the Government-owned Guyana Chronicle as an outstanding balance owed by the Government Information Agency (GINA) – another State-owned entity.It is important to note that the APNU/AFC, while in Opposition, voted against budgetary allocations for GINA in 2013 and 2014, reducing that entity’s allocations to $1 on both occasions.The Audit Office official said that all of the highlighted cases are but a few of the abuses of the Contingency Fund by the Government.These abuses were previously highlighted to the Government when the financial paper was tabled and subsequently approved by the Government-controlled National Assembly, but at the time, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had dismissed these accusations, stating he was not of the opinion that the advances made amount to the abuse of the Contingency Fund. Meanwhile, the report is also expected to cover several cases prior to the May 11, 2015 General and Regional Elections, as the then PPP/C Government was also drawing down from the Contingency Fund.It is also important to recall that then President Donald Ramotar had prorogued the Parliament and subsequently called the General Elections, therefore there was no 2015 National Budget until August of that year; four months after the coalition Government took office, and thus the report is expected to highlight a number of instances under the previous Administration.GECOMThere were expectations that the 2015 Audit Report would have shed some light on the controversies surrounding a decision by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to procure 50 obsolete High Frequency (HF) communication radio sets by GECOM from a Water Street businessman for close to $100 million, while sidelining Barrett Communications, the manufacturers of the very equipment.The equipment were purchased for the 2015 General and Regional Elections but were never put into use after it was discovered many of them were not working.However, the official said that the report is not expected to elaborate on that agency since there is a special investigation into the corruption allegations there.The electoral body is also accused of procuring another $100 million in stationery supplies from the same businessman and $14 million in pliers and nippers from a relative of the businessman.NICILMeanwhile, the official revealed that the auditors were unable to comb the books of the controversial National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) since all of that agency’s financial records are in the hands of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) which is conducting investigations into the operations of that entity.The 2014 Auditor General’s Report had flagged the PPP/C Administration over the withdrawal of $962 million from the Contingency Fund without meeting the specified criteria.Abuse of the Contingency Fund has always been a talking point for the APNU/AFC while in the political Opposition.As a matter of fact, AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, who is now a Vice President and Public Security Minister in the coalition Government had emphasised on several occasions in the past that the National Assembly is the first device or mechanism for which emergency advances can be protected from abuse.“The (PPP) has been abusing their understanding of the criteria of an emergency under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act. “When we run to the Fund it is only to be used for emergency cases, like if there is a serious flood in Mahaicony and we need to remove citizens, money would be used in that case. But I understand that they are using the Contingencies Fund to relieve the National Communications Network,” Ramjattan was quoted as saying.Ramjattan had accused former Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh of abusing the Fund.“I am begging the people of this nation to understand that it is their money that is being abused and to realise what kind of Government they had,” Ramjattan had said.However, the examples that are now being cited bear a very close resemblance to what the APNU/AFC condemned while in the Opposition.
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