Audit of CJIA stalled, critical info not forthcoming – Auditor General

The much-anticipated, value-for-money audit, as well as an overall financial audit of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project expenses by the Audit Office of Guyana, is still on the table but has been stalled and it is unclear as to when these audits can be conducted.
This is according to Auditor General (AG) Deodat Sharma, who during a telephone interview with Guyana Times, stated that over six weeks ago, a letter was sent to the Public Infrastructure Ministry to supply certain information for the agency to commence its work.
According to the AG, that information is yet to be provided and until the Audit Office receives this critical information from the subject Ministry, it cannot begin any audit at the CJIA.
However, Sharma noted that the Public Infrastructure Ministry had initially responded to the AG’s office signalling its intent to cooperate.
“They just acknowledged the letter to say that they are working on it to send. Until I get the document(s) from the Ministry, then I will be unable to say a time frame of when we can start working,” he stated.
Over one month ago, Sharma had explained that the reason that the Audit Office of Guyana had requested the critical information from the Ministry was because of the fact that 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 started 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.
“The way an audit is conducted, an audit looks at the materiality of figures and the fact that those figures are to be pursued. The first thing one does is look at the contract and see whether the contract is being observed”.
“If there’s any variation, what was the authority for the variation? And was it made in accordance with the Procurement Act? You also need to ensure that those persons who might have compromised at the variation had the relevant expertise to do so”.