Home Letters APNU/AFC coalition will be remembered for wasteful spending spree
Guyanese who lived through the period 2015-2019 will always remember the APNU/AFC coalition government for wasteful spending and lack of accountability in office.
In government, the APNU/AFC expended over one trillion dollars that was partially financed by additional taxes of G$264.8 billion, as well as external debt and domestic debt of $18.9 billion and $67.5 billion in domestic debt respectively. Unfortunately, the lavish spending by the APNU/AFC Government did not produce jobs for Guyanese, induce more foreign and domestic investments, improve the production of our key sectors, or enhance the well-being of our people. Instead, we witnessed the reverse: an increase in unemployment (especially among youths who were told to make cook-up rice and plantain chips), a decline in output levels of the critical sectors, disinvestment and capital flight, more bankruptcy as reflected by increasing non-performing loans and the general decline in the critical socio-economic indicators.
Government spending, which is usually a catalyst for economic growth and development in every country, produced the foregoing results for various reasons. Firstly, a significant portion of Government spending went into non-value added activities. Leading this category of expenditure is spending on dietary and travel, which approximated over $4.7 billion for the period 2015-2019. This type of expenditure only benefitted a few officials who were afforded the privilege to ‘wine and dine’ in fine style while travelling in luxury vehicles (Lexus, Land Cruisers, Prados, etc) as well as planes, helicopters within and outside of Guyana. However, the poor man who struggle daily to put food on the table and find funds for transportation did not even enjoy the ‘crumbs’ from the billions spent on dietary and travel.
Secondly, the poor execution of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) by the coalition government also denied Guyanese the benefits usually associated with government expenditure. In his 2019 Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance, confirmed this fact when he reported that “Guyana‘s estimated efficiency gap in public investment was 41 per cent, compared to 30 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean.”
To a large extent, the sub-optimal returns from public investment may be attributed to poor planning, misprocurement (that is, failure of procuring entities to award contracts as per the Procurement Act), and poor contract management. The Auditor General Reports are littered with examples of contracts awarded in clear breach of the Procurement Act. Evidence of poor contract management, on the other hand, is reflected by overpayments on contracts as well as delays and non-delivery of items procured by procuring entities. The table below shows that for the period 2015-2018, there were overpayments on 298 contracts amounting to $356.17 million. During the corresponding period, the APNU/AFC also failed to collect items valued at $796.01 million. Thus, we are not only paying more by failing to award contracts to the lowest responsive bidder but, in many instances, not even collecting the items procured with tax dollars. According to the Auditor General, the Ministries that have failed to collect the items purchased included the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MoPI), Ministry of Public Security (MoPS), and Ministry of the Presidency (MotP). These are the agencies responsible for providing security, healthcare and public infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc).
Lack of accountability
Editor, apart from the spending spree that failed to produce any dividends (eg, jobs, improved well-being, more investment, etc), the APNU/AFC will also be remembered for its failure to account for public funds properly. Over the period 2015-2018, a total of 1754 vouchers valued at $1964.75 million were not presented to the Auditor General for audit. Interestingly, 582 of these vouchers in 2018 were in respect of the Ministry of the Presidency, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Ministry of Natural Resources, Guyana Defence Force, and Ministry of Social Protection. This speaks loudly about accountability at the highest level, Ministry of the Presidency, and throughout the public sector.