Works Ministry representatives came in for criticism from members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, when the illegal sale and cannibalism of vehicular assets belonging to the state came under scrutiny.
Discrepancies flagged in the Auditor General’s 2011 Report on the Ministry included the sale of a Toyota Carina AT 192, bearing registration number PJJ 3886, which was sold without proper adjudication of the Ministry, while trucks owned by the ministry were cannibalized without conformity to regulations.
According to the ministry’s written response to the discrepancy, vehicle PJJ 3886 was purchased by Lin Xinimin, Construction Manager of China Civil Engineering Corporation, the contracting for the construction of the Intern-ational Conference Centre, which was funded by a Grant by the People’s Republic of China.
The vehicle was bought on November 3rd 2004, and the ministry’s response states that it was sold by Xinimin to “Dorine Welcome” on July 7th 2009, following the completion of the Conference Centre.
Engineering Consultant Walter Willis, who was part of the team representing the ministry, further explained that when the Grant was given, the corporation requested that duty free concessions be granted on the importation of materials needed for the project, and to purchase the car. The waiver of the duty for the vehicle was handled by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), which registered the vehicle in the name of the ministry.
Although the vehicle was sold in 2009, the ministry admitted that it only became aware of the sale in mid-2012, when a request was made to transfer the vehicle’s registration to Welcome.
Willis suggested that the sale of the vehicle might have been allowed because the ministry’s staff was under the impression that the vehicle belonged to Xinimin.
Government Whip and PAC member Gail Teixeira, who expressed her bewilderment at the situation, said the explanation was unacceptable.
She noted that the vehicle was purchased with part of the Grant-funds provided to the Govern-ment of Guyana by China, and said that though it was purchased for use by Xinimin, it was and still is the property of the Government of Guyana.
It was for that reason, she explained, that vehicle was registered in the name of the ministry.
As a result, she said the matter needs to be placed into the hands of the police and the person responsible dealt with accordingly. “This should never have happened,” she told the panel of representatives.
Willis said that efforts are being made to retrieve the vehicle but that those efforts have not yet produced results. Teixeira’s fellow PPP/C and PAC member Bibi Shadick suggested that the ministry ask GRA if any licence were issued for a vehicle bearing the aforementioned plates in 2013, as this might be an effective way of recovering the vehicle.
The Auditor General’s report also found that “two trucks GMM 8442 and GMM 8443 and vehicle PDD 6832” were “cannibalized without conformity to regulations.
Explaining what transpired in its written response to the Audit Office’s queries, the ministry said “these were considered uneconomical to operate and steps were taken to dispose of them. At the same time, some trucks which were acquired from China through National Hard-ware were down because of scarcity of spares.
As a consequence, parts were taken from the two trucks to make three Chinese trucks operational in order to avoid further delays in the execution of the Ministry’s work program.”
Asked who authorized the cannibalism of the trucks, Works Ministry Permanent Secretary Balraj Balram told the committee that approval was sought from and given by its Chief Mechanical Engineer. Neermal Rekha, Financial Secretary in the Finance Ministry seemed quite annoyed by Balram’s explanation. Weighing in on the matter, he said that the laws state clearly that only the Financial Secretary is authorized to give such permission.
Upon hearing this, Balram told the committee that he had sent such a request to the Financial Secretary but had gotten no response.
At this point Committee Chairman Carl Greenidge reminded Balram that not too long ago he told the committee that he believed the Chief Mechanical Engineer to be the authority on this matter.
Rekha said that the Finance Ministry takes pains to inform the various permanent secretaries of the various financial regulations, and lamented the fact that many of them continue to act outside the laws.