Private developers owe CH&PA $687.9M – AG Report

Auditor General Deodat

An audit of the financial statements of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) show that, at the end of December 2018, private developers had some $687,955,550 outstanding for lands sold to them.
This was flagged by Auditor General Deodat Sharma in his report to the CH&PA Board of Directors, which was handed over in March 2020.
“I draw to your attention note 19 of the financial statement which relates to land sold to Private Developers with an outstanding balance of six hundred and eighty-seven million, nine hundred and fifty-five thousand, five hundred and fifty dollars (687,955,550) at 31 December 2018,” AG Sharma reported.
In light of this finding, the Auditor General has urged the CH&PA officials to ensure that all efforts are expended to recover the outstanding payments as soon as possible.

Central Housing and Planning Authority

“I consider the outstanding balance of six hundred and eighty-seven million, nine hundred and fifty-five thousand, five hundred and fifty dollars ($687,955,550) material, and emphasise to the Board of Directors and management that every effort should be made for the recovery of the amounts outstanding in the shortest possible time,” he advised.
Moreover, the Auditor General highlighted in his report that there were overpayments in the year under review amounting to some $4,112,500 to contractors. This was identified by the Works and Structure Department of the Audit Office of Guyana from a sample of seven contracts selected for physical verification of capital works.
In addition, AG Sharma found that the contingency sums under each contract were being utilised to carry out additional civil works in other housing areas. These additional works, he pointed out, were not included in the original contract documents and, as such, the Authority considered the unused contingency sums as savings from projects.
“I believe that current procurement and contract administration practices are not in conformity with the practices of other Ministries and Agencies of the Government, and recommend that the Authority should desist from such practices (so) as to comply with the objectives set out in the Procurement Act 2003,” the Auditor General stated.
Further, the AG reported that as at 31st December, 2018, there were nine pending matters which were identified for the year that the outcome could not be determine by the authority’s legal representatives.
Meanwhile, AG Sharma also highlighted in the report a significant event outside the reporting period; that is, the discovery of misappropriation of funds to the tune of $20,670,000 back in January 2020.
“The Authority has advised that its internal controls have been strengthened as part of its Standard Operating Procedures to mitigate recurrence,” the Auditor General reported.
Back in January of this year, the major fraud at the CH&PA was discovered, and at the time, a former employee along with several others, including civilians, were detained by the Police for questioning.
The CH&PA had revealed in a statement that the staff – who this publication was told is female – was immediately fired after several discrepancies were uncovered by the agency.
“Immediate steps were taken to have the staff relieved of duties with immediate effect to facilitate the investigation. At this juncture, the agency will not be providing any further information on the matter, to not prejudice the investigation,” CH&PA had said.
It added, “In the interim, the agency will be making all necessary information needed by the Guyana Police Force available to ensure that justice is served. The Central Housing and Planning Authority again reiterates its zero-tolerance policy on any form of corruption and misuse of public funds.”
Meanwhile, reliable sources have informed this publication that the alleged fraud was in connection with the selling of lands to persons outside of the regular channels.
At the time, then Crime Chief Michael Kingston had confirmed to this newspaper that the former staffer and several persons were in Police custody assisting investigators with their probe. He took care to stress that those detained are not current staff of the Housing Ministry’s CH&PA.
Meanwhile, in August 2020, the Guyana Police Force had issued a wanted bulletin for 31-year-old Keiron Jemison Alleyne of Lot 99 David Rose Street, Bagotville, West Bank Demerara. He was wanted for questioning in relation to forgery committed on the Central Housing & Planning Authority on January 3, 2020 at Durban Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown.
It was unclear whether Alleyne was connected to the $20 million fraud uncovered at the CH&PA.