Overpaid contractor given loan terms to repay Govt’s money
…PAC launches probe into staff who approved documents
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday examined the 2016 Auditor General Report findings on the Social Protection Ministry, probing revelations that a contractor was overpaid for works and the staff who signed off on the documents is still functioning in the same capacity.
During the sitting, PAC member and Public Works Minister Juan Edghill questioned the Auditor General’s findings on the overpayment of $366,788 for a contract under the then Ministry of Social Protection. Permanent Secretary Shannielle Hoosein-Outar revealed that the Superintendent of Works who signed off on the overpayment is still employed in the same position.
“From what I have seen, it is that the Superintendent of Works had signed off verifying the completion of works and payment was made. However, this was not true… if it is an issue that I come across going forward the officer will be dealt with, because it is dishonest to verify something that did not happen… it is the same Superintendent of Works,” she said.
According to Edghill, overpayments only occur when there is carelessness or collusion on the part of the officer certifying the works. He questioned whether any sanctions were taken against the Ministry’s Superintendent of Works, which Hoosein-Outar could not confirm or deny.
“So, we have the same gentleman who signed off payments for works that were not done, he’s still in the same position. And you’re not aware if any sanctions have been taken against him. And it is expected that the public would be convinced that this time around he would only pay for works that have been measured?” Edghill asked.
Hoosein-Outar, who confirmed that the Superintendent is a public servant, said that details of any disciplinary measures that were previously taken against the officer, as well as the officer’s qualifications for the post he holds, will be provided by next week.
The overpayment relates to a contract for repairs and maintenance at the Ward 2 Palms Geriatric Institution on Brickdam, Georgetown. Since the audit report, it was revealed that the Ministry met with the contractor.
The contractor agreed to not only do corrective works, but also repay the extra money in four monthly instalments. This has since been done. Pointing to the arrangements, Edghill noted that this is reminiscent of a loan being provided to the contractor.
“A man was overpaid approximately $340,000. The overpayment was brought to his attention. And we have an agreement that he’s going to pay it back in four monthly instalments commencing in 2017. It’s a loan the man got! This isn’t an overpayment, it’s a loan he got,” Edghill said.
“Was this contractor given any other contract in this Ministry during this period of time. Because if he was given work, he was given work so he could earn to pay back the money he was given by the accounting officer. If a man is overpaid and you call him in to tell him he was overpaid, the first thing he should have done was return the money that he should not have had!” Edghill, added.
According to the Permanent Secretary, the contractor was T Bars Enterprise. The PS committed to providing all outstanding details next week. The PAC next dealt with the Ministry of Public Security. However, Edghill moved a motion to adjourn the meeting until next week Monday, causing dissent in the Committee before the PAC ultimately adjourned. (G3)