The issue of overpayment to contractors and poor recording keeping by accounting officers under the former APNU+AFC government was once again at the center of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) work on Monday, when the Committee met to scrutinize the spending of Region 8 for several projects in the infrastructure, health and other sectors for the years 2017 and 2018.
Opposition Member of the PAC, Ganesh Mahipaul today flagged one issue in particular, where a contractor was paid more than $5M for a $6m project long before works were started on that project.
“I hear the REO when he said the bridge is now completed. I hear the REO when he said the work was done. But the fundamental here has to do with the principle and the principle is, you paid for measured works. You pay for works that are completed you don’t assume completion. It is very good that the work is completed but the point is if the work was not completed, then what would have happened to this money,” Mahipaul
In some instances, there is no documentation to show for the award of several contracts, as well as payment information for those contracts although some information was provided to show that works were indeed executed.
This issue, the PAC observed, has been occurring from as far back as 2011 and was never really addressed.
Another PAC Member Juretha Fernandes expressed disgust over the issue.
“As it is right now the documents that are available are records from the audit office and that alone that has been exhausted. Every question we have asked points to the issue at hand points to record keeping. They are saying there is no record of what was, so obviously all the questions that following through with when and where and how the answer keeps coming up that the records are not there,” Fernandes said.
In addition to the question of poor record-keeping, it was found that the Region under consideration has been overpaying contractors, sometimes doling out millions for work yet to be completed.
The REO of the region was grilled on the issue of fuel for the Region. It was found that records for the fuel distributed could not be located, although he said that matter has since been remedied.
“We have documents in the check orders that would have been cleared attesting to the fact that the fuel paid for were actually received. But the problem is the distribution of that fuel, where did it go, who got what, that is the sort of records cannot put together,” the REO told the PAC.
PAC Member, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo said such a practice must come to an end.
“I am highlighting this as a warning across the country to agencies, to know that this thing here, should not be done and will not be tolerated,” Dr. Mahadeo said.
The PAC has been pressing accounting officers in various government departments to be much more vigilant with their work.