Although Region Two’s (Pomeroon/ Supenaam) 2015 budget made provisions for the purchase of a much-needed generator for the Suddie Hospital, the item is yet to be procured by the regional administration, which reportedly encountered difficulties getting approval from the Tender Board.
The generator, according to the 2015 Audit Report, was part of $215.675 million assigned for capital expenditure. However, $65.665 million had not been spent, because the administration had not purchased the generator, had not begun work on the extension of the Wakapoa Secondary School dormitory and was experiencing difficulty regarding the construction of the Aurora Primary School. The sum also catered for the retention of payments that rolled over to 2016.
Regional Executive Officer (REO) Rupert Hopkinson told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Monday that the reason the generator had not yet been purchased was because the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) had asked Region Two to resubmit the application.
After the generator was not bought in 2015, it was re-budgeted for in 2016. Although there was no contract in existence, a cheque was cut for the item, which raised much scrutiny among the committee members. That cheque was also not returned to the Consolidated Fund at the end of the year.
The REO said he was advised by the Permanent Secretary to sole-source the generator and so proceeded to get a quotation from Machinery Corporation of Guyana (MACORP), which he uplifted himself. He later said that he was actually advised to check several sources and having not received a response from the others, got a quotation from MACORP because of the urgency of the situation. It was based on this quotation that the cheque was written.
The REO said the cheque was not cut based on his authority, but he could not say on what basis it was prepared and authorized as he said he had allowed someone else to follow up the process.
Chairman of the PAC Irfaan Ali pointed out that the PS asking Hopkinson to find sources for procurement was not the same as him granting approval for the purchase. He noted that the NPTAB had to be written to for approval of sole-sourcing.
Committee member Juan Edghill, on the other hand, plainly asserted that the approach taken by the region was illegal.
“You had a budget that was approved by this House for the acquisition of a generator. In your capital project, you did not advertise for this generator to be procured. In December, while your project is underperforming, you sought to get the money out of the system to improve your performance so you opted for sole-sourcing. You discussed that with your PS who probably made some recommendations to you. You went to MACORP and got a quotation and you cut a cheque. Everything against the law,” Edghill said.
This speculation was denied by Hopkinson, who stated that the situation had in fact been urgent, as they had always experienced problems with the generator at the Suddie Hospital, hence the “quick action”.
Ali and Edghill queried whether the generator was really urgently needed as more than a year had passed and the machine had still not been purchased.
“As far as I know, this item is needed at the Suddie Hospital. While they have a generator in place, it is not adequate enough to take off the load of the hospital. So this particular item is an emergency, perhaps not for the region, but for the hospital, so that the hospital can be able to function adequately,” Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence stated.
Although the cheque was cut, an action the REO said MACORP was aware of, there was no written agreement in place.
Asked by Nigel Dharamlall, also a member of the PAC, if the matter in question was the only instance that procurement was done without any documentation, Hopkinson said it was as far as he was aware.
Junior Housing Minister Valerie Patterson had proceeded to ask what measures the region would put in place to ensure something of this nature would not recur, but Ali interjected to state, “We don’t need to put anything in place. We just need them to follow the rules… and the guidelines.” He said what was evident was that individuals and the region collectively did not follow the rules and guidelines set out, causing a complete breakdown.
“I would like to advise the REO that since it’s a generator and it’s not something that you buy in the market, there are specialized agencies that provide [for this] under the Procurement Act. You can apply for selected or restrictive tendering, get the quotations, get the evaluation done, and within seven days all of that could be completed. Once he sends the cheque back, once the contract is awarded, the cheque could be cut for that person and we could get a generator that is onshore Guyana delivered to the Suddie Hospital. But we just need to get out of the MACORP fixation… so that the taxpayers and the people of Guyana can benefit,” Edghill advised.
Hopkinson had said that the cheque would be returned to the Consolidated Fund “almost immediately”.