June 13, 2021
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first_img…Govt also pays M to bankrupt US company for CCTV camerasAbena Moore, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP), was yesterday hauled over the proverbial coals when she appeared before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer queries raised by the Auditor General’s Office.The resultant interrogation revealed that tens of millions of dollars had been spent by the MoTP in breach of procurement rules and in audaciously flagrant violation of the nation’s financial laws.A frazzled Moore was at pains to provide answers for the several breaches that were highlighted; and, before wrapping up her testimony, told the Committee that the expenditures for which she is unable to provide satisfactory answers were all overseen by embattled former Permanent Secretary Omar Shariff – who was fired as Permanent Secretary and arrested after the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) had alleged theft of billions of dollars at the MoTP following investigations.PM’s luxury rideActing Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, former Junior Finance Minister Bishop Juan Edghill, was forced to upbraid Moore during the interrogation by saying accounting officers and professional staffers at government ministries must not buckle to the pressure of policy makers “and politicians that cause us to bend the rules.”Moore has been grilled over the bizarre circumstances surrounding the purchase of a multi-million-dollar luxury vehicle for Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo. The Public Accounts Committee heard that not only was the vehicle delivered almost one year late, but the entire cost for the vehicle – $13M – had actually been paid up front by means of two cheques, using sums of money that had been allocated for the previous year’s expenditure.This explanation caused Edghill to declare: “Everything is wrong about this transaction, and it falls on the lap of the accounting officer (Permanent Secretary Moore)!” His position was that while the vehicle had been purchased for the Prime Minister, the rules of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) had been flouted, and this should never have been allowed to happen.Permanent Secretary Moore indicated that the money had been allocated in 2015 to purchase the vehicle, and the cheques covering its full cost had been cut and paid to Beharry Automotive Sales Limited with expectation that the vehicle would be delivered in a timely manner; but this did not obtain, as the vehicle was not delivered until September of 2016.Among the excuses offered for the late delivery was a fire at the Toyota Factory in Japan, and the installation of a cooler and other accessories for the vehicle.One of the MoTP’s technical officers had attempted to gloss over the fact that it was an error to cut the two cheques up front and pay them simultaneously to the Beharry Automotive Sales Limited; but Bishop Edghill quickly objected to his attempts, and outlined to him the process that obtains and why his answer “did not make sense”.It was also revealed that the MoTP had not requested the Finance Secretary’s permission to have the money held over from one year to another.Under the line item “vehicles for the Prime Minister”, a total of three purchases, totalling $22 million, was made from Beharry Automotive Sales Limited; and all payments were made 100 per cent up front.According to Bishop Edghill, paying 100 per cent upfront for vehicles to be delivered months later is tantamount to giving an involuntary loan.Moon BlinkMoreover, it was found that in 2015, under the pretext of unavoidable, urgent and unforeseen circumstances, the MoTP had procured some $20 million in closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. To date, this equipment has not been delivered; and according to Permanent Secretary Moore, the US-based (California) company has since gone bankrupt.She told the Committee, “I engaged the Minister of State (Joseph Harmon) on this matter. He is speaking with the Minister of Legal Affairs (Basil Williams).” She added that the MoTP has been engaging other US-based stakeholders in the contract – Shawn Birkett and Shawn Nolan – to no avail.According to Moore, the MoTP has also been looking to engage the American Embassy, “to try to see what help we can get (in recovering the sum paid up front).”Police ActionThe Committee heard that the transaction had not been secured by a bond, and the vendor – now a bankrupt company – had in fact been paid in full upfront, as was the case with the vehicles for the Prime Minister.By this time, the Committee’s substantive chairman, Irfaan Ali, had returned to take charge of the proceedings, and had learnt that the MoTP is currently unable to recover overpayments it had made to a contractor for works undertaken at Castellani House.Moore said that when the contractor was hauled in, he related that he was not in a position to make repayments, since he has not been getting work. According to the Permanent Secretary, “I have written to him recently, (demanding he should) start paying or I (would) hand the matter over to the Guyana Police Force.”Other government agencies engaging the attention of the Public Accounts Committee at yesterday’s meeting included the Public Service Management, the Ministry of Business, and the Public Telecommunications Ministry.last_img read more