Audit into CJIA expansion project to commence soon
The much-anticipated financial audit of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project is expected to commence shortly once the Public Infrastructure Ministry supplies certain information to the Auditor General’s Office.
This is according to Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who told the <<<GuyanaTimes>>> during a telephone interview that his office is awaiting word from the subject Ministry as to when the relevant documents will be made available.
“We have written for information to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. That letter went off lately (about two weeks ago) informing that we are carrying out the audit. We are requesting that (information) from them,” he stated.
Sharma further explained that the reason that the Audit Office of Guyana had not requested the critical information from the Ministry was because it needed to have certain groundwork completed in this regard.
“We had to get up information you know. We were doing some reports in terms of what we would need so I had to let the engineers get up some information like what we are going to be needing later to carry out this special investigation. So, the letter has now gone off to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and yes, the audit is still in the pipeline”.
This special audit comes in light of a series of calls mounting for a thorough probe into the CJIA expansion project by a wide section of society.
For some time, the Public Infrastructure Ministry has faced questions over the CJIA expansion project’s costs and delayed construction. The project was initially supposed to have been completed within 32 months.
The project got underway in 2012 under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration when Guyana secured a US$138 million loan from the China Exim (Export-Import) Bank to fund the expansion and modernisation project— for which the Guyana Government was to contribute some US$12 million.
The A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC), when in Opposition, had cut the funding the then PPP/C Government had allocated for the expansion project.
When the coalition Government came into power in 2015, the project was put on hold, but after discussions between Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), it was later announced that the project would be continued but a number of downgrades were done to the design.
The extension of works into 2019 comes in disparity to an earlier commitment by Government, whereby it pledged that the works associated with the expansion would have been completed by the last quarter of 2018.
Just a few months ago, Attorney-at-Law and anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram stressed that such an audit is, in fact, to be expected and speaks to the broader issue of a Government that is accountable.
“It’s obviously something that is necessary. There need not be a call for it. It should be done as a matter of course. It’s part of the broader issue of transparency and accountability. Only an independent audit will be able to attest to the accuracy and authenticity of any expenditure,” Ram had said.
According to the attorney, there are several elements to consider when conducting an audit. Ram urged that any audit into the CJIA expansion project should include elements of both value for money and financial audit.