National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) CEO Lionel Wordsworth yesterday there is no $200 million missing from the Community Drainage and Irrigation Project (CDIP) as far as the agency is aware, while explaining that persons were reassigned while others were sent on leave to enable restructuring of the programme.
Stabroek News had reported on the issue since January when reports surfaced that the coordinator and a supervisor of the CDIP were sent on leave after some $200 million could not be accounted for while an audit was being undertaken at the agency.
Wordsworth, in a strongly worded statement in response to Stabroek News yesterday, reiterated that he has indicated on several occasions that, “we are unaware of any such amount of money missing from our accounts.”
He said that under directions from the Minister of Agriculture, he and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture led a team to consider improvement in the functioning of the CDIP and to implement a rigid monitoring and evaluation programme from January this year.
He said that in restructuring the programme, the coordinator and other staff were reassigned and some persons were sent on leave to allow the restructuring to be completed unimpeded.
“We were receiving numerous reports of poor management and poor supervision of the works being done in communities. The Ministry of Agriculture was unhappy with the level of supervision and it instructed the NDIA to implement a stricter supervisory system,” he said of the CDIP.
He told Stabroek News recently that the agency has been seeking greater involvement of the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) to better manage the programme and in addition to engaging the NDCs, the Ministry of Local Govern-ment is also assisting in ensuring that the goals of the CDIP are met.
“As part of the restructuring, the NDIA is incrementally introducing bank payments to workers, instead of individual payments,” he stated adding that the payments will only be authorized after verification of services provided.
Stabroek News was told that the when the programme started several years ago, some 2,800 persons have been employed by the NDIA to carry out the activities such as cleaning drains and clearing canals. Wordsworth said that some 2,300 persons were employed under the programme and today that number has reduced to 1,863 workers who are employed part time. Wordsworth told this newspaper recently that the auditing of the accounts of the CDIP was ongoing while the two persons who were in charge of the programme remained off the job. He said that when audit is completed, the relevant reports will be forwarded to the Agriculture Ministry for action. The CDIP started in 2007 and was initiated by former President Bharrat Jagdeo. The programme was being managed by the Finance Ministry through a $50 million grant but was later expanded and placed under the ambit of the Agriculture Ministry.
Persons at the Agriculture Ministry told this newspaper recently that when the programme expanded, avenues were made open for funds to disappear since persons such as foremen were hiring staff unknown to the ministry.
The programme has attracted a high number of employees from Region 10 and recently the supervisor of the project there was fired from her post for underperformance.