Former audit office head, Anand Goolsarran has described former attorney general Charles Ramson’s advice on lotto monies not being paid into the Consolidated Fund as “very flawed” and said had he still been auditor general he would have disagreed with the advice and hoped it would have been reconsidered by Ramson.
While as Attorney General Ramson had advised current Auditor General Deodat Sharma that there is no legal basis for government’s portion of the Guyana Lottery Company’s revenues to be paid into the Consolidated Fund.
“There is therefore no legal obligation to transfer moneys there from into the Consolidated Fund. This fund, is however, subject to an audit by the Auditor General under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003,” Sharma said that Ramson stated in the advice he gave him about the Lotto monies in his 2009 report.
However, Goolsarran said that when the attorney general gave the advice he referred to an act of the 1960s when Guyana had what was known as the Radio Bingo game which was run by the state which had to pay out prize money so it made sense to keep the money out of the Consolidated Fund. But in the case of lotto, he said, it is run by Canadian Bank Note and the government receives 24% of the proceeds with no expenses paid and as such the money should be in the Consolidated Fund.
“So I don’t agree with the attorney general in his ruling and I saw his ruling addressed to the auditor general and as a result of that ruling the auditor general is not commenting on the Lotto fund (in his annual reports),” Goolsarran told Stabroek News in a recent interview.
He said if he was still the auditor general he would have expressed his disagreement and reason to the attorney general and hoped that he would have considered his position.
As a result of the advice, Sharma no longer insists that the lotto money be placed in the Consolidated Fund. In 2009 he had pointed out that in previous reports his office had highlighted the Ministry of Finance’s failure to hand over the government’s share of the Guyana Lotteries money to the Consolidated Fund. Instead, he said, proceeds were paid into a special bank account and were used to meet public expenditure without parliamentary approval.
Billions of dollars have been accrued from the lotto games and little is known about how funding decisions are made by the government and who gives the final approval.
Goolsarran is also concerned with the fact that a lot of money is out of the Consolidated Fund, stressing that it is important for every dollar of public revenue to be placed in that account which is controlled by parliament. If money is out of that account, as in the case of the Lotto fund, and payments are made then parliamentary approval is undermined, he opined.
“All public money must stay in this one account controlled by parliament not sit all over the place, only parliament must watch over it and not a cent can come off without the approval of parliament,” he stressed.
He said there are so many bank accounts sitting around in overdraft and with balances and no one is doing anything about it and they need to be tallied and closed off and the balance transferred to the Consolidated Fund.
Meantime, Goolsarran said he has not been studying the reports put out by the present auditor general but he has observed that there has been some continuity from where he left off. However, he has not seen any venturing into new territory. He said when he became auditor general he carved out an approach that was unique to him as there was a ten-year reporting gap and he had nothing to follow.
He said that one of the difficulties he had was that he was engaged in a one-man fight in the interest of the public and no one stood by him.
“That was my disappointment, nobody stood by me so what do I do get a heart attack? I decided to go cool off for seven years and live to fight another day and I am not fighting another day. I have decided to come and live a quiet life.”
“And if they need help I am willing to help to clean up that mess because I have been recommending that…” he said.