GWI under scrutiny by PAC over use of unspent funds

As has been the case with a number of government agencies, the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) was last week upbraided for failing to return unspent monies to the Consolidated Fund at the end of the year.

While examining the entity with reference to the Auditor General’s 2016 report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last Monday noted that a $195.4 million allocation to GWI under the 2016 budget for the Hinterland Water Supply programme was spent beyond the financial year, with transactions being made in 2017.

During questioning by PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali, it was revealed by GWI’s Planning and Implementation Manager Ramchand Jailall that on December 29th, 2016, there was a revision of the programme, which is made up of 15 projects.

Jailall related that all the cheques were prepared in 2016, and while some payments were made that year, the company does not have control over when contractors uplift their cheques.

Ali, however, was adamant that regardless, monies are to be returned to the Consolidated Fund.

Furthermore, it was discovered that all the projects for which cheques had been written had not been completed at the end of 2016. Although Jailall’s explanation was that there were two multi-year projects, it was found that the funds for one of them was fully spent in 2016. This is although Jailall stated that provisions would have been made in the 2017 budget for the projects.

That project was the Water Supply Improvement project for Tassarene. According to Jailall, the contract for the $26.644 million project was awarded in November 2016.

However, according to the Auditor General’s records, at the time of reporting, all the money had already been spent.

“So you just told me that this was a multi-year contract, using your own words. I am going to end this meeting here because I am not going to allow the PAC to go through this. You told me earlier that this was a multi-year contract, you remember that…? You now tell me the contract sum is $26.6 million and the amount you utilised in 2016 was $26.644 million. All the resources. Explain yourself now,” Ali asserted.

Jailall explained that a 50% advance had been paid to the contractor that year and the remaining monies processed.

Ali went on to enquire how they had budgeted for the project again in 2017 if the entire contract sum was covered in 2016.

Complicating matters, Jailall then told the committee that he had another document before him that said the contract sum was $17 million, while another documented $26 million, as he had previously related.

Ali, noting that there were inconsistencies in the numbers and dates being presented to the PAC and those in the possession of the Auditor General, asked that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Emile McGarrell to work with the latter to attempt to reconcile the information in their possession.

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