Region Ten REO blames ‘unethical staff’ for overpayments

Although already overpaid for by $1.1 million, rehabilitation works for the fencing at the Christianburg Wismar Secondary School will have to be re-budgeted for in 2018 to see its completion, and the accounting officer of Region Ten believes “unethical staff” are to blame.

Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region Ten (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice) Gavin Clarke stated at last week’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting that in addition to the contractor having not finished the work, which saw the fence being ‘completed’ without plastering, there had also been issues with staff regarding “discrepancies” in the preparation of bills of payment.

When directly asked by Chairman of the PAC Irfaan Ali whether he was saying he had “unethical staff,” Clarke replied, “yes sir,” to which Ali responded by noting that such a statement was a serious one.

Clarke related that he had written to the relevant authorities shedding light on those claims, and promised to provide those correspondences to the PAC. According to the Auditor General’s 2015 report, a total overpayment of $1,104,000 was found after physical measurements were done on the structure. The report stated that the contract for the fence’s rehabilitation was awarded at $8.524 million to the lowest of 19 bidders, against an engineer’s estimate of $9 million to complete repairs to sections of the existing fence, and to construct a timber revetment and a new section of chain-link fence. Following an approved variation, there was a revised project cost of $8.520 million; $7.054 million was paid to the contractor up to the time the audit was conducted.

Clarke stated last Monday that the contractor had written, acknowledging that the overpayment was owed and committed to repaying same.

According to an update from the audit office, $318,920 of the total has been cleared, reducing the overpayment to $785,080.

Asked by PAC member Juan Edghill what measures have been put in place to avoid overpayments in future, Clarke stated that the region had acted on the PAC’s recommendation to have a functioning works committee, although he had admitted earlier that it met infrequently.

He noted, however, that those who are responsible for the state of affairs also need to be made accountable.

“…I am still advocating…we need to have these officers who create these issues be somewhat and someway [held] responsible for their actions. As is, these messes are made and they have no other role in recovering this money and they are ready to move on and make another mess and the REOs and other programme managers are left to take the blame time and time again,” Clarke stated.

The REO further stated that he makes personal visits to project sites and has in the past “personally audited” a number of them, while adding that the overpayments listed for 2015 in the AG’s report would have been “not so nice” had it not been for the work of the regional administration.

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