Minister of Local Govern-ment and Regional Develop-ment Ganga Persaud has warned again of government’s zero-tolerance of overpayments on contracts, signing off on substandard work and extortion.
He was speaking at the Regional Engineers Depart-ment and Works Committee Workshop held on Wednes-day at the Guyana Inter-national Conference Centre.
The objective of the workshop was to foster more synergy between the Regional Engineers Department and the Works Committee, and subsequently reduce the incidences of payments being made for incomplete work, a Government Information Agency (GINA) report said.
According to Persaud, for quite some time the two bodies have engaged in a “blame game” regarding payments being made for unfinished work. Further, he noted that “year after year” the Auditor General has found overpayment in all 10 Administrative Regions.
“Overpayment in this regard, does not mean that the Regional Executive Officer (REO) approved payments in excess of the contracted sum; but rather, it means that what was paid for was not completely executed,” Persaud explained.
The minister said he is currently compiling information that he has received on incidences of extortion at the Works Department in Region 10 and will soon submit same to the police. He further advised elected and appointed officials from the Regional Democratic Councils that if their salaries are inadequate they should find alternatives to supplement it instead of resorting to extortion.
“Don’t attempt to fleece the contractors; when you try to extort from contractors, it is the quality of work that suffers, and it is the taxpayers’ dollars that is poorly spent,” Persaud said.
With regards to complaints about substandard work, Persaud said representatives from the political parties form the Works Committee and they are tasked with ensuring that work is done satisfactorily before signing the final certificate and recommending the final payment, which is then approved by the REO.
“It seems that this fact is lost on the political leaders of this country and so we seek to beat up on the appointed officials and as elected officials, we position ourselves as though we had no relationship with regards to these payments,” the minister said.
He also noted that a number of delinquencies have been occurring at the Works Department, including the drafting of bills of quantities without finalising designs, constructing buildings without making provisions for the installation of doors and windows, and using bills of quantities that are not reflective of the scope of work. Persaud reprimanded the REOs for not imposing sanctions on errant regional engineers, overseers and superintendents.
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker, said the workshop must be seen as an investment in human capital. He said every year, government invests millions of dollars across the 10 regions to train, retool and regroup departments and personnel to improve the level of services that citizens, as taxpayers, are entitled to.
“This workshop, no doubt, gives recognition to the fact that life is not static, we undergo changes. The people’s needs today and the people’s needs tomorrow will change…the higher the demand will be for better quality of service and we have to ensure that we deliver to the satisfaction of the people,” he said.
GINA said participants in the workshop will also benefit from a session with representatives from the Auditor General’s office to specifically address the issue of overpayment, as well as discussions on the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act with emphasis on budget preparation.
The annual reports by the Auditor General have been crammed over the years with instances of contract overpayments, substandard and unfinished works and tender breaches. As a result the government has come under pressure to explain why its Local Government Ministry has not had more success with the regional officers.