The Ministry of Housing and Water may have been the subject of possibly the shortest Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing in quite some time, after only one issue was singled out by the Auditor General’s (AG’s) Office for scrutiny in its 2010 report.
Obviously surprised by this development, APNU MP Jaipaul Sharma wasted no time in enquiring of AG Deodat Sharma if the lack of observed discrepancies noted was a result of an error made by his office or an indication that the ministry had done exceedingly well in the management of its finances.
He said the matter was quite serious, especially considering the fact the ministry was the recipient of $5.8 billion for its administrative, capital and other expenses.
PPP/C MP Bibi Shadick also raised an eyebrow at the report, asking if the observation should be taken as indication that the ministry was in keeping with all administrative regulations.
The report also provoked the curiosity PAC Chairman Carl Greenidge, who sought to find out the statuses of the ministry’s capital programmes.
MP Sharma voiced his conviction that the observations made by the AG’s office appeared to be minimal, considering the size of the ministry’s budget, and he enquired of the AG if he was sure that this was the only discrepancy found.
In its 2010 report, the Auditor General stated that the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) were respectively funded by subvention of $250 million and $150 million, but that the ministry failed to have the financial statements of the two agencies laid in the National Assembly within the statutory period. Though the 2010 audited financial statements for the two agencies were presented and laid in the National Assembly on August 4, 2011, Sharma asked the Auditor General if the report was as impeccable as it seemed, of if the lack of discrepancies was as a result of late reporting by the AG’s office.
AG Deodat Sharma at this point stated that the late submission of the documents for auditing was what constituted a breach of financial regulations.
He explained, however, that the breach was a result of the fact that the agencies were in arrears on their records and were in the process of “catching up”.
The Auditor General said that his office’s priority during this period, as it related to the Housing Ministry, was to work along alongside it to help bring its records up to date.
The AG also said that the presentation of the statements was delayed because the ministry was tardy in its response to queries made by his office. He said no further steps could be made until the queries were addressed, and he wanted to give the ministry the chance to do so.
At this point, Shadick stated that the Auditor General should have made mention if this in his report, as opposed to painting the near perfect picture he did.
She said he should have said that the delay in submissions was as a result of tardiness in the resolution of queries.
MP Sharma stated that considering the fact that such important details had been omitted from the AG’s report, it would not be unreasonable to request a review of the recommendations made, so as to ascertain if any additional omissions may have occurred.