Transparency: Jagdeo expresses suspicion over missing files

D’Urban Park probe

…as Audit Office may be forced to close investigation without them

The Audit Office of Guyana’s has registered its complaints that it was unable to acquire pertinent documents from the Public Infrastructure Ministry in its special D’Urban Park probe. This is being viewed with much concern by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Last month, Auditor General (AG) Deodat Sharma had revealed his inability to access certain documents from the Public Infrastructure Ministry, while carrying out his probe of the D’Urban Park Project. At his press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo was highly sceptical of the disappearance of documents which relate to a project completed only in 2016.
“I have seen the Auditor General say he will conclude his audit of the D’Urban Park project, even though he has not received the financial information requested. Now you could recall that when they were pursuing this project in Parliament, there was a debate,” Jagdeo said.
“They said, the [People’s Progressive Party] PPP spent $38 million on building up the land at D’Urban Park and it was a waste of time; we built up the land and we just allowed bush to grow on it. The Minister who was presenting the case pointed out when the bid was issued for filling up the land, who won the contract,” the former President recalled.
Jagdeo noted that this development was reflective of a pattern and not a positive one. He contrasted the loss of documents pertaining to a two-year-old contract with the preservation of documents for a project the PPP conducted over a decade ago.
“$1.4 billion (was spent), but we can’t find the details of a bidding process that was completed two years ago, yet they found elements of this bid for filling up the place that was done, 12, 13 years ago. It tells you a pattern,” Jagdeo said.

Unanswered questions
Last year, the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman, Irfaan Ali, had requested further probing be done by the Auditor General into specific projects. Among those projects was the D’Urban Park Project, for which the AG in his 2015 report listed some $36.5 million in Lotto funds being used for rehabilitative works.
Ali had stated that these requests were in relation to follow-ups from the findings that had been included in the AG’s 2015 Report. In his 2015 report, the Auditor General had said that following checks on the accounts, it was found that while Government transferred $1 billion of the Lotto money to the Consolidated Fund in 2015, it held onto just over half a billion dollars to remain under the control of the Ministry of the Presidency and it spent $305 million on various activities.
But the audit into the D’Urban Park project has always been hindered by a lack of access to pertinent information, with the Audit Office being forced to write to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure requesting documents.
This was revealed by Sharma, who spoke to the media after handing over of his 2016 report. According to Sharma, he wrote to the Ministry requesting information on Homestretch Development Inc.
“I’ve written to the Ministry of Public (Infrastructure),” he had related. “I need to know information concerning that company that was established to set up the Durban Park. (But) information is not coming.”
That company in question was Homestretch Development Inc (HDI); a company in which former Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was revealed to be a Director. Notwithstanding the trouble to access information, however, Sharma stated that the audit was still ongoing.
Last month, Sharma subsequently stated in sections of the media that records from the company are yet to be provided and that when a request was made to the Permanent Secretary of the Public Infrastructure Ministry, he had pled ignorance.
In the report, Sharma had related that while he intended to write to the company, he would wrap up his audit by year end with or without the documents.