Inauguration audit report leaves questions unanswered

The surfacing of an audit report on private expenditure for the presidential inauguration in May has left unanswered questions about the mandate given to this committee, who were the private donors and when the government will provide answers on overall spending.

Representative of the Brickdam Independence Arch Restoration and Inauguration Committee, Fitzroy Corlette was unable to provide answers when contacted by Stabroek News on Monday on the brief report which stated that the inauguration of President David Granger cost $18.7M and was funded by donations.

Corlette spoke briefly to this newspaper and denied being a part of the committee that spearheaded the financial statement which was audited by Nigel Hinds Financial Services (NHFS).

He said that he himself did not provide any auditing services and denied any part in the report which addressed spending on the renovation of Independence Arch on Brickdam and the inauguration.

The report seen by Stabroek News shows that Corlette signed the Sources and Application of Funds statement on behalf of the committee.

The brief report by NHFS did not list the donors and said that based on its instructions from 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.”

Corlette was asked by this newspaper if he had any knowledge of private donors for the inauguration but was told that he had no such information.

The report by NFHS noted that all the information used for the report was provided by the inauguration committee. It would appear that the committee commissioned NHFS to do the audit. This would mean that the government will still have to provide a statement on the spending for the inauguration.

Stabroek News asked Corlette about his connection to the government to which he responded that as an accountant he provided his services to President Granger while he was the Leader of the Opposition and throughout the last campaign.

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.

Despite questions by the opposition PPP/C in parliament on October 22nd, the government provided no information on spending for the inauguration of Granger which had as its highlight a ceremony 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 covers expenditure for the period May 20th to June 5th, 2015 and is dated July 5th, 2015. The report was not officially released by the committee to the public neither did the government adopt it.

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.

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.”

Additionally, 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.

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