PAC raps Audit Office over ambiguous entry on army spending

In a rare occurrence, the Auditor General’s Office came in for scrutiny by the Public Accounts Commit-tee (PAC) yesterday for its use of ambiguous language its 2011 report on the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Following yesterday’s meeting, it is likely that the agency will be looking to improve the wording of its reports on various state agencies as several PAC members pointed out that the statement of a particular discrepancy caused some amount of confusion during the examination of the financial records of the army.

The Audit Report stated that “fuel and lubricants valued $462.272 million was purchased from a local supplier. However, records reflected payments totalling $384.815 million, a difference of $77.457 million.”

Members of the committee seemed to interpret the statement as meaning that although $77.457 million in fuel had been paid for, it was not received. However, this was not the case. Auditor General Deodat Sharma explained that checks of the GDF’s fuel storage facility accounted for $384.815 million in purchases, and that the outstanding $77.457 million was not in the storage facility because it was distributed to outlying locations.

Government whip and PPP/C committee member Gail Teixeira noted that the statement was “badly worded” and caused un-necessary confusion. She also urged the Auditor General and his office to ensure that their statements better represent the message they are attempting to convey, especially in the light of the weight the office’s reports carry, not just at the level at the PAC, but in general.

The issue was also lamented by PPP/C MP and committee member Manzoor Nadir, who voiced concern over the misinterpretation of the information which can stem from badly worded statements.

He pointed out that PAC meetings are usually open to the media and that unclear statements, such as the one under scrutiny, may result in an inaccurate headlines being published and broadcast in the various media avenues.

As criticism of the Audit Office’s use of vocabulary gained traction, PPP/C Bibi Shadick emphasised that such occurrences are somewhat common and she recalled that she had reason to comment on such matters before.

Shadick said that members of the committee should not have to upbraid the Audit Office on its report.

She said that the office is supposed to be there to support the committee as it goes about scrutinising the discrepancies identified. She added that she does not like having to question the methods and information they provide.

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