Granger inauguration activities cost $18.7M, funded by donations

–auditor’s statement

A statement prepared by Nigel Hinds Financial Services (NHFS) says the renovation of the Independence Arch on Brickdam and the inauguration of President David Granger cost $18.7M and were funded by donations.

The brief report seen by Stabroek News did not list the donors and said that based on its instructions from a body known as the Brickdam Independence Arch Restoration and Inauguration Committee, it was not “required to nor did we carry out any enquiry or other test of the information in order to express an audit opinion.”

The Granger administration has come in for intense scrutiny and questioning over the expenses incurred for the inauguration of the President and attendant activities such as the cleaning up of the Independence Arch.

A scene from President David Granger’s inauguration at the National Stadium (Stabroek News file photo)
A scene from President David Granger’s inauguration at the National Stadium (Stabroek News file photo)

Despite questions by the opposition PPP/C in parliament on October 22nd, the government provided no information on spending for the inauguration of Granger at the Guyana National Stadium.

The silence then and on other occasions led to accusation that the government was exhibiting double standards on accountability. The report by NHFS is unlikely to assuage critics. It covers expenditure for the period May 20th to June 5th, 2015 and is dated July 5th, 2015 but has never been released to the public despite the clamour for information.

NFHS’s report said that the Sources and Application of Funds statement for the inauguration committee was prepared “in accordance with the relevant standards for such engagements.” It added that all of the information included in the statement came from documentation and data provided by the inauguration committee.

It said that based on its review it was unaware of any material modifications that should be made to the accompanying financial statement.

The statement from the committee listed the total sum donated as $19,200,000. Of this figure, $12,100,000 was donated by corporate citizens and $7,100,000 came from others. Observers have said that for full transparency the public should be aware at least of the corporate donors.

The statement provided a breakdown of the use of funds as follows: advertising, $665,000; meals and entertainment, $8,426,511; cleaning and sanitation, $4,650,720; contractor fees, $288,500; professional fees, $660,000 and rental expense at $4,041,598. There was a surplus of $467,671.

Fitzroy Corlette signed this statement on behalf of the committee.

In the notes to the statement, NHFS said that after Granger was sworn in as President, A Partnership for National Unity began a “massive” clean up campaign to the main drainage and irrigation sections of the city. The notes said that the Independence Arch was included in the refurbishment plan which was spearheaded by BK International, Stanley Ming and other contractors “by sources of income received from corporate groups and private citizens.”

The notes also said that the financial statements were prepared in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards for Small and Medium Sized Entities.

The government had earlier said that no state funds were used in the inauguration.

In a written response on October 22 to the parliamentary questions posed by PPP/C parliamentarian Dr Frank Anthony, Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry said the Ministry of Education, Department of Culture, Youth and Sport was not required to provide any financial, technical, nor in-kind support in preparation for the Presidential Inauguration events held at Parliament Buildings, Independence Arch in Brickdam, the Pegasus Hotel, and elsewhere, including the clean-up up campaign that preceded those events.

Anthony had asked the minister to provide a detailed list of all costs incurred in relation to, and in preparation for, the Presidential inauguration events. He also asked the Minister to indicate the source of funding and for the Minister to provide a detailed list giving the nature and total value of contributions made.

Henry responded that as indicated in the first response, no financial support was provided therefore no source of funding can be indicated and, as a result, the ministry also has no list.

Anthony also asked if the minister could indicate when an audited statement of the expenditure incurred will be available and tabled in the National Assembly.

“The Ministry of Education, Department of Culture, Youth and Sport is not in possession of any statement of expenditure, as no expenses were incurred for the stated activities. Additionally, the Ministry of Education, Department of Culture, Youth and Sport is not in any position to audit and or table same in the National Assembly given its nonexistence,” was the response by Henry.

During the consideration of the budget estimates this year similar questions were asked but the PPP/C was not satisfied with the oral answers that were provided by Henry.

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran had said that the APNU+AFC government needed to come clean on the spending for the inauguration.

Goolsarran had told Stabroek News that this should have already been done to display good governance and transparency. He said that “private funding for public expenditure in keeping with our laws… would be considered a gift or a donation. It has to be valued and brought in the public accounts.”

He said there should be a line item in the 2015 expenditure statements in the next budget showing that there was a value and a source for this funding.

“When private funds are being used for public events the government owes it to the public to disclose where the money came from and how the money was spent,” Goolsarran stated.

He acknowledged that the private funding could be viewed as a form of lobbying. Goolsarran said that as such laws are provided for gifts and donations to be valued and publicly disclosed.

He said government should have never have waited for a Member of Parliament to bring a motion requesting information on the inauguration. “I know there were questions asked. I don’t think the government should have waited for a motion to be tabled they should have made the disclosure before that,” he said.

“A sign of good governance and transparency would dictate that you don’t wait for a Member of Parliament to pose those questions to you.”

Since the Department of Culture, Youth and Sport under the Education Ministry was not responsible for providing any funding for the May 26 inauguration, it was not unacceptable for Junior Minister Nicolette Henry to provide no response on what monies were used, Goolsarran said. However, he added, “Despite that fact, I believe it is appropriate for a disclosure to be made—a list of persons and the expenditure incurred—in respect to transparency.”

He said, “Mr Trotman has the floor to speak,” noting that since the expenditure would have been made through the Ministry of the Presidency, the Minister of Governance would need to pronounce on the matter.