… sent on leave a year ago
…as PAC calls for US Embassy’s intervention to recover millions
The Public Security Ministry has for more than a year paid three members of staff their full salaries despite the fact they have not been on the job – after being suspended as a result of suspected involvement in a multimillion-dollar scandal.
Permanent Secretary Daniella McCalmon made the revelation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which met on Monday to query findings raised by the Auditor General in 2015.
The Ministry was unable to account for in excess of $15 million, since the payment vouchers were not handed over to the auditors.
The Permanent Secretary told the Committee that the three staffers were sent on administrative leave since March 2016 and they have not been interdicted, so payment continued since the investigations have not been completed.
The disclosure was met with disbelief by Committee Member Juan Edghill, who voiced his discontent over the fact that taxpayers’ dollars were being used to pay the staffers for doing nothing and they could in fact be already gainfully employed elsewhere.
“I am paying three people’s salaries every month…They could actually be doing another job looking at me and laughing,” he quipped.
PS McCalmon indicated to the Committee that an interim report from the Guyana Police Force and the Audit Office have been sent to the Public Service Commission with regard to the three employees.
According to McCalmon, it was the decision of that Commission to have the persons be sent on leave instead of being interdicted at the time.
Another of the matters raised by the Committee was a contract entered into on December 31, 2015 for in excess of $100 million.
It was found that the Ministry held onto a cheque representing the balance owed – more than $52 million — that was never uplifted by the supplier until nine months later.
McCalmon told the Committee that the supplier would have been vacationing overseas at the time hence the money was not collected at the time.
This explanation did not go down well with the Committee members. People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) member, Nigel Dharamlall observed that while the original contract was inked on the final day of the year, at the time of the audit the Ministry was still in possession of the $52 million cheque in breach of the laws of Guyana.
“This issue is much bigger than what is being reported to PAC at this time,” Dharamlall said, and he was informed by the Permanent Secretary that a special investigation has been launched into the transaction.
Dharamlall questioned the apparent repeated financial breaches by the Public Security Ministry and was told by Permanent Secretary McCalmon, “I will pledge the Ministry will not be in this position again and all money to be refunded will be refunded.”
The Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) dictates that all unspent or monies not disbursed at the end of each financial year must be returned to the treasury.
It was pointed out that that the Ministry was deliberately looking to avoid returning money to the treasury by entering into such large-scale contracts on the final day of the year.
Another of the questionable contracts entered into by the Ministry related to the supply of an industrial washer and dryer to the tune of more than $7 million – to date the items are yet to be supplied by the American company contracted.
Committee members recommended to the PS, writing to the local American Embassy in order to seek its assistance in recovering the money or getting the equipment.
The Committee heard that the equipment was meant to ease the burden at the Georgetown prisons, but since it was never supplied the prisoners have had to resort to manually washing their attire.
The Committee heard also that there was no public tender and the Ministry instead wrote to the tender board seeking permission for the sole sourcing of the equipment.