– while being grilled on maintenance costs; $8M spent to repair 1 truck
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) got underway on Monday with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) being grilled over its spending on vehicles and the head of the budget agency admitting that even now, the Force’s fleet of 232 vehicles is inadequate.
During the sitting of the PAC, Coast Guard Commander Vernon Burnette represented the GDF. He was grilled on the Force’s spending on vehicles, including the sum of $8.5 million spent to repair one Bedford truck in 2016. It was during his response that Burnette spoke of how strapped the GDF was for vehicles.
“The high cost of maintenance for vehicles is a concern to us. Most of our fleet is pretty old. But we don’t have enough vehicles to conduct the operations we are required to. As we speak, because of COVID, many of our Commanders and senior staff officers are out of vehicles,” Burnette said.
“All of their vehicles have been taken away and have been provided for operational duties on the borders. And even on the coast. So, it is indeed a fact that we have been spending a lot on the maintenance of our fleet.
Burnette claimed that the Force has not been replacing vehicles in a timely manner. When replacements are done, the quantity is also an issue. As a consequence, he noted that the force has been stuck with vehicles needing regular maintenance.
“We haven’t been replacing those vehicles in a timely manner and in the quantities we would like, that would enable us to get rid of these (old) vehicles. That is a concern to us,” the Commander said.
However, Burnette’s explanations for why one truck cost $8.5 million to repair did not satisfy PAC members, who questioned the scope of works executed on the truck and what brand and year it was. The Commander was initially unable to answer the PAC’s inquiries, causing the Committee’s Chairman, David Patterson, to question why the GDF was so unprepared.
It was subsequently disclosed before the PAC that the truck is a Bedford 4 tonne tipper truck, which had been assigned to the 4th Engineering Battalion. Additionally, the $8.5 million repair bill was paid in monthly instalments throughout 2016. Burnette was able to tell the PAC, however, that work was done on the truck’s engine.
The PAC also heard that the Force has 232 terrestrial vehicles in its fleet, with five of them engaged in sensitive, intelligence operations. For 2016 alone, which is currently being dealt with by the PAC, the GDF spent some $371 million on vehicle maintenance.
Besides the Bedford 4 tonne Tipper truck, there were two other Bedford Model MTCV trucks that cost $4.473 million and $2.803 million, respectively, to maintain in 2016. There was also a Toyota Hilux 7th Generation D/Cab that cost $6.345 million to maintain and a Nissan Frontier D/Cab that cost $4.994 million.
The GDF’s continued inability to answer questions posed to them by members of the PAC, however, saw the committee eventually deciding to send Burnette and his officers away. According to Patterson, they will be expected to return at a later date to continue the examination of the GDF’s finances for the year 2016.