The Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs yesterday found herself facing intense scrutiny over a $52 million transaction for the purchase of tractors, trailers, and other such equipment, without a written agreement.
After intense questioning, DPS Sherie Feedee admitted to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that there was no contract in place for the agreement between the ministry and General Equipment Guyana (GenEquip) for six John Deere tractors and trailers and six ploughs and harrows.
This was not the only agreement from the ministry of this nature, however, as it was later related that four ATVs bought for $9.990 million were also purchased without a written contract.
“I’m not going to tolerate any disrespect for the PAC. This ministry came once before, they were sent back because of the same type of responses. They have to go back to the ministry for information, they presented information that were not factually correct, they presented misleading information…they came back a second time to the PAC. We had a similar situation where information requested was not there, they had to go back again, now this is the third time and this is a simple question,” PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali chided.
“If we are coming to PAC with a major query like this, we have to walk with the information on that contract. And these are basic information that could be extracted from those contracts if there was a contract in the first place. I am getting the feeling that there was not a contract,” he added.
There was confusion for quite some time over when the tractors and other equipment were received by the ministry and delivered to the communities.
Asked by Ali why it had taken more than a year for the communities to be in receipt of the equipment, which was delivered in February, 2017, Feedee had initially said that it was because it was in the possession of GenEquip. She later stated, however, that the equipment was received last year by the ministry, where it was housed.
She was asked to clarify this again by Ali.
Feedee maintained that payment was made for the equipment in late 2015 and it was received in 2016. She explained that the unit is informed of the tractors’ arrival and it would relay the message to the villagers.
When the dorms manager was asked to verify Feedee’s claims, she said she could not recall, but when prompted by Ali, said she did not believe the tractors were in the compound around the time of the Christmas season, and so estimated that the items were received in 2017. She, too, seemed uncertain about the timeline, however.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Alfred King related that Feedee had been responsible for the management and procurement of the equipment. However, she could not state what the contract delivery date was, nor what was the warranty period, and further questioning by PAC member Juan Edghill later led to the revelation from Feedee that there had been no written contract.
Furthermore, the equipment had not been tested while in the custody of the ministry.
“So we don’t know if we got what we bought,” Edghill said.
King said that he had been unaware of that there was no contractual arrangement and was in fact under the impression that there had been a tender board award for the contract.
Questions were raised as to how a payment was made without a contract and how it was that the AG had not picked up on there not being a contract.
While King initially said that the former PS would have signed off on the payment, the AG later advised that it was the DPS who had signed off, and that the issue of the contract was not readily known because no vouchers had been presented.