Gov’t has spent $3.1B of lotto funds without parliamentary approval

Between 1996 and 2009, the government received $3.520 billion from the Guyana Lottery Company, and by the end of last year had spent $3.153 billion of this amount without the appropriate consent from the National Assembly.

The Auditor General’s report for 2009, which was tabled in Parliament on Thursday, again highlighted the Finance Ministry’s failure to pay over the government’s share of 24 per cent of the proceeds of the Guyana Lotteries Company to the Consolidated Fund.  Instead of complying, the proceeds are paid over to a special bank account and used to meet public expenditure without parliamentary approval, the report said. However, the government, through the Attorney General, is contending that it has no legal obligation to put this money into the Consolidated Fund, the report said.

According to the Auditor General’s report, “The balance in the bank account… was not refunded to the Con-solidated Fund as required by Section 43 of the Fiscal Management and Account-ability Act 2003 (FMA Act), but was retained by the ministry. Section 43 of the Act says that ‘Except as otherwise provided in this Act or in any other law, at the end of each fiscal year, any unexpended balance or public moneys issued out of the Consolidated Fund shall be returned and surrendered to the Consoli-dated Fund’.”

However, the Auditor General’s report said, “according to the legal opinion of the Attorney General concerning the deposit and use of funds… ‘there is … no legal obligation to transfer money therefrom into the Consolidated Fund.’  This fund is, however, subject to an audit by the Auditor General under the provisions of the FMA 2003,” the report said.

Meanwhile, of the $3.153 billion of the Lotto Funds spent to date, $55.849 million was used to meet expenditure last year. Some $54,199,000 of this amount was used by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport “to meet expenditure for the President’s Youth Award Republic of Guyana (PYARG) adventure journey, Independence Anniversary,” the report said. Another $1.2 million was used to offer assistance to the Dr Jagan Memorial football knockout tournament while $450,000 was spent under the description of “stipend to members”.

This expenditure, the report said, was within the national sectors previously identified and was in accordance with the guidelines for access to the lottery funds. This included funding for activities that promoted cultural and youth and sports development, financed medical treatment overseas and economic support for disadvantaged groups, among others.

The accounts of the Guyana Lottery Commission for the years 2007 to 2009 are currently being audited by the Auditor General’s Office. The commission’s last set of audited accounts are for the year 2006.

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