Auditor General, Deodat Sharma came in for harsh criticism from Finance Minister Winston Jordan following the release of his 2015 report on how the government spent taxpayers’ dollars for the year 2015.
The Finance Minister reminded that the APNU+AFC government was not responsible for all government spending for the 2015 fiscal year, pointing out that the coalition took office in May of that year.
“The report gives the impression that we were responsible for the entire 2015 or at least the papers give that impression,” Jordan noted.
Jordan’s main bone of contention, however, was the AG’s failure to grant the state an opportunity to clarify flagged issues before the report was published.
The Minister under the former People’s Progressive Party administration officers from within the Ministry of Finance were usually required and allowed to offer clarifications to issues before the report was printed.
He said he is disappointed that in the 2015 report, the APNU+AFC coalition government was not afforded that opportunity and statements were made to excite and inflame the population.
“There was a period not so long ago when the Auditor General Report before it was published, used to come right here in the Ministry of Finance where it was edited for content and other things before it was published. Today that doesn’t happen anymore, The Auditor General is now under the PAC. He doesn’t have to ask the Minister anything. He could write what he feels like writing and then produces his report,” Jordan said.
He said while there is no requirement, not even in the interest of courtesy, the Minister was not allowed to see the report before published, questioning how things moved from one extreme to what he now considers “another extreme, without any opportunity for us to explain anything that appears to be out of the ordinary.”
The Minister said the AG is also now “dabbling in areas which never appeared before.”
“But if you want to dabble in those areas what we are asking for is an opportunity to be heard. You (The Auditor General) make a statement saying we did not spend $20 billion in capital expenditure and revenues were short by $781 million. These are budgetary matters if you are going to comment on them ask the people who are the specialists,” he added.
The Minister said he was not telling the Auditor General how to do his job but explained that he had expected a greater level of integrity, professionalism, and competence.
“We are not asking for praise all we are acting is for factual reporting and let other people form their own opinions.”
The Minister refused to comment on whether he feels there is a political motivation behind the AG’s reporting.
Jordan also highlighted the AG comments on government’s spending from the contingencies fund, pointing out that he cannot decide what is appropriate and urgent.
“So going around hollering that the APNU government can’t account for $600 million is playing to the gallery as far as I am concerned and again I repeat what I said about explanation,” he noted.
Jordan said the government was also under a lot of pressure when it came into government to prepare the budget in a short time and the external pressures from Venezuela which led to emergency spending for the Guyana Defence Force.
Jordan said the government has committed to transparency and accountable and rejected efforts to make the government look likes it is being inconsistent in its actions.