Special audit into UG’s finances halted

…after Education Ministry withdrew commitment to pay outside auditors

The special audit into the finances at the University of Guyana (UG) has been stalled until authorities can figure out who will stand the expense involved in conducting the probe.

University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus
Auditor General,
Deodat Sharma

Initially, the Audit Office of Guyana had contracted an independent company to conduct the much-needed and highly anticipated audit into UG – in light of allegations of mismanagement of funds.
The audit was first ordered by the Education Ministry after a request was made by the two workers’ unions at UG to have such an investigation launched. The Ministry was going to stand the expense associated with the investigation. However, this newspaper was told that shortly after the independent company commenced its work into the matter, the Education Ministry withdrew its request for the audit with no explanation given.
Nonetheless, the Audit Office had committed to going ahead with the probe. But according to Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, due to issues regarding lack of finances, the audit is currently at a standstill.
“So I think that because he is contracted out it might be an issue of who has to pay. When I do an audit, they do not have to pay me right, except for certain agencies but if a contracted auditor then there is a fee involved. So I think I will have to just follow that up,” he told this publication on Monday.
Less than three weeks ago, AG Sharma had noted that the backlog of years UG did not complete its audited financial statements was a cause for worry.
“The issue [is] UG’s audited [financials] were up to 2017. They’ve now submitted financial statements for 2015. So we still have 16, 17, and 18 due. So until you get those statements and audits up to date, you really can’t do a proper audit, unless you do a special investigation in particular areas.”
Sharma, whose agency audits Government’s public accounts on an annual basis, went on to note the importance of having those accounts up to date up to 2018. He was not convinced about the UG administration’s sincerity in clearing this backlog.
“They’ve just submitted the 2015 [report]. But we’re still awaiting 16, 17 and 18. So I don’t think they are taking very serious steps,” the Auditor General had remarked.
UG’s administration has previously been accused of wanton spending— including hosting several events, standing the expenses of meals and accommodation for guest speakers, as well as hiring select individuals, paying them super salaries, and sending large delegations overseas, all on the University’s bill. Former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith had always denied those claims.
The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) have levelled these accusations, in particular. The Unions had joined forces to question why monies were allocated in previous budgets to entities which do not exist and what became of those funds.
They had also demanded answers from the administration on how much money was spent on nonessential events within the last two and half years — which included, but were not limited to, the Law and Society series, the Turkeyen-Tain talks, and the Vice-Chancellor’s installation ceremony.
They had argued that while these monies were being spent, the core units of the University, which include faculties and schools, had been informed that no money is available for essential repairs and payment for stationery, among others.
In his 2016 Audit Report, Sharma had found that $209 million had been unaccounted for from the University of Guyana’s Science and Technology Support Project, funded by the Government of Guyana (GoG) and the International Development Association (IDA) under Credit Agreement No 4969-GY.
However, the University had insisted that the monies were used for infrastructure projects on the campus, including a fibre optic cable to provide students with Wi-Fi.
It had also noted that some of the monies were used to renovate the faculty buildings.