The Auditor General (AG) has flayed seven of the 10 Regional Administrations over their mismanagement of Government buildings. He has revealed that some 288 persons are living in those buildings rent-free, and has since recommended that all steps be taken to recover the monies owed, so that the monies could be paid in to the Consolidated Fund, where they belong.
Leading the list of delinquent regional administrations is that of Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), which has again been flagged by the Auditor General for its management of the 300 Government buildings. It was revealed in 2016 that 132 of those buildings are occupied, but only 26 persons are actually paying rent; and in the AG’s Report for 2017, the occupancy number has been raised to 136, with only eight persons actually paying rent, while some 120 persons are living in the buildings without permission.
According to Civil Service Law, 2004 Public Service Rules, “Government quarters provided to public servants as a condition of service, eg in the case of hospital staff, where presence on a hospital compound may be required on a continuous basis, shall be free of rent.”
It goes on to state that: “in lieu of quarters, a house allowance may, with the approval of the Permanent Secretary, Public Service Ministry, be granted to a public servant who is entitled to free quarters but for whom quarters are not available.”
It is understood that for unfurnished quarters, an employee who does pay rent is required to pay 10 per cent of his or her salary, while the requirement for a furnished apartment is 12 per cent of that employee’s pay.
The report also recommended that the Regional Administration take steps to ensure that only officers entitled to Government quarters are accommodated therein.
In the AG’s 2016 report, the same issue was identified and brought before the Public Accounts Committee, where Regional Executive Officer (REO) Pauline Lucas said the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARA) has been called in to assist with eviction. However, it is unclear as to the status of that action, since the number of occupancy has increased and those paying rent have decreased.
Of the 10 Regions, figures were not provided for three of them; namely, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne); Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice). However, it was reported that in Region One (Barima-Waini) there are 230 Government buildings owned and controlled by the regional administration, of which 60 are Government Living Quarters. Of these 60, officers of the region occupy twenty, 38 are unoccupied, and two are abandoned. However, in respect of the twenty living quarters occupied by officers of the Region, no evidence has been seen that rent was being paid by any of the occupants.
According to the AG, the administration of Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) made little or effort to correct the situation that existed in 2016, since it was revealed, after inspecting the House Rent Register, that of the 77 living quarters, 15 are occupied by unauthorised persons.
However, the Region indicated that seven persons were transferred there, while five have vacated, and three are still occupying the living quarters.
The Report indicated the number of persons paying rent in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) has increased from 7 at the end of December 2018 to 21 at the end of May 2018. However, some 28 other persons are still living without paying any rent.
In Region Five (Demerara-Mahaica), the situation was a little different, since the AG identified that 20 of the 46 living quarters are occupied without any documentation to validate such action.
Included in the 20 quarters are two junior staff, a heavy-duty vehicle driver and a Schools Welfare Officer; they continue to occupy these living quarters rent free and with free utilities. The Regional Administration had paid for these utilities, and currently, as of July 2018, continued to pay same without any approval.
“The Head of Budget Agency indicated that the Schools Welfare Officer was transferred from Region Four and sent to the Region, but brought all her furnishings; while the heavy-duty vehicle driver was allocated an apartment next to the REO, who is entitled to a vehicle and driver in the event of an emergency, for transportation purposes,” the Report stated.
Based on the records presented in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), there are some 102 living quarters, of which 88 are occupied, with only 12 paying rent, while 30 are entitled to rent free accommodation. However, of the 46 living rent free, there are five civilians with no relation to the regional administration.
In Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), there are 85 Government buildings controlled by the Regional Administration with 53 being occupied rent-free. The last time rent was collected was in December of 2014.
All of the defaulting REO’s have since promised to have the issue addressed and the living quarters regularised.