Auditor General queries $173m spending by Education Ministry

Auditor General Deodat Sharma has raised questions about the manner in which the Ministry of Education utilized $173.3m from its special projects fund.

In his 2016 Report tabled in the National Assembly recently, Sharma noted that the Ministry continued to operate a special project Bank Account into which funds from various sources such as the Guyana Lotteries Commis-sion, Digicel and refunds from the Permanent Secretary were placed.

He noted that not only were there discrepancies between the actual balance and the cash book balance but the Ministry inappropriately met unrelated expenditure totalling $173.703 million from this account.

“An analysis of the expenditure revealed that a significant portion was related to the normal activities of Ministry. This expenditure should have been met from budgetary allocations and approved by the National Assembly. In addition, the Ministry breached Section 8 of the Procurement Act as there was no evidence that tender board procedures were adhered to in the procurement process. Further, payment vouchers and relevant supporting documents were not presented for audit examination,” the report states.

These sums were spent on items such as Equipment and Furniture, Anniversary Celebrations, Salaries and Overtime, Vehicle Parts, Construction and Rehabilitation, Sports Gear, Stationery, Rental, Advertisement, Staff Wel-fare and Airfare.

“The bank balance on this account as at 31 December 2015 was $29.952 million while the cash book balance was $11.023M. Similarly, the bank balance as at 31 December 2016 was $46.621 million and the bank balance as per the cash book was $44.825 million,” the report stated.

It was explained that during 2016, $177.080 million was received and deposited into this account. Included in this amount, was $28.474 million received for the rental of the National Stadium and which the Ministry deposited into the Consolidated Fund and $98.616 million collected as revenue from the Guyana Lottery Commis-sion for the year 2016.

As at 31 December 2016, amounts totaling $44.256 million were expended on the purchase of two pianos, airfare and out-of-pocket allowance for overseas visits. However, the unspent balance of $54.360 million was not refunded to the Consolidated Fund and examination of the payment voucher revealed that one upright piano and one concert grand piano to the value of US$204,690 equivalent to $42.162 million were purchased based on the approval of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board dated 17 November 2015. There was no evidence that an amendment to the approval granted was sought to facilitate the procurement of the pianos to be made in 2016.

Additionally four payments totalling $1.595M were made to meet expenditure of the Ministry for national celebrations and the payment vouchers were not presented for audit examination; and two payments totalling $525,300M were expended on salaries and overtime for staff at National Stadium, National Cultural Centre, Sophia Training Centre and Kuru Kuru Training College. These payment vouchers were also not presented for audit examination.

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