PAC halts scrutiny of Region Five’s accounts

-after claimed withholding of info from Auditor General

The Region Five administration had the examination of its accounts by the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) cut short yesterday as it was believed that the region has not been forthcoming with information to the Auditor General (AG).

The Regional Executive Officer (REO) Ovid Morrison and his team were thoroughly questioned on the drugs the region received in 2016, after Morrison told the committee that in that year, they had received $154,827,838 in drugs, although only $135 million was warranted.

Further to that, according to the AG’s report, of the warrant (which was done in two parts, $60 million in August 2016 and $75 million in October 2016), only the $60 million was expended, while the region received a NIL return on the second warrant.

PPP/C parliamentarian Juan Edghill, who acted as Chairman at the beginning of the session, questioned how the region had managed such a feat. However, an answer to the satisfaction of the committee was not provided, and Morrison had indicated that they had written to the Ministry of Public Health making enquiries but have not gotten a response.

The Regional Health Officer had claimed that of the total value, 40% of the prices had been estimated prices as the Health Ministry’s Materials Management Unit had failed to provide actual prices and had used current year prices, accounting for inflation, but this was not further substantiated.

Ovid Morrison

Edghill opined that the REO had not been forthcoming, as the information provided as relates to the $154 million, had not been before the committee. He cited the Audit Act of Guyana, which he related states that governing bodies shall ensure that the AG at all times has access to relevant documents at budget agencies to discharge his function and shall regularly supply the AG with an account of the agency’s transactions.

He recommended that the AG audit the process related to the issuing of warrants, and the delivery and reconciliation of drugs supplied based on the appropriation account.

The substantive Chair-man of the committee Irfaan Ali, following a brief consultation with the committee members, declared that the region was not prepared for questioning and stated that Finance Secretary Hector Butts would be examining the matter before the examination of the region’s accounts continues.

“In these circumstances, we have decided to ask the Financial Secretary to examine all the facts surrounding this matter and to take the necessary administrative and other measures provided under the laws that he is required to do,” he said.

“We have a letter here sent from the Auditor General to the REO, dated the 22nd May, 2018, asking for the information to be submitted for auditing purposes. So far, the Auditor General has been denied [this] information…,” Ali said, while noting that under the law a person commits an offence who knowingly and without lawful justification or excuse intentionally obstructs, hinders or resists the Auditor General or an officer authorised by him, in the exercise of his power.

But Morrison has indicated that information has been provided.

Morrison, although he would not comment on whether he thought the decision was “fair,” pointed out afterwards that the letter referred to by Ali was seeking documentation for the 2017 audit year and not the year being examined.

“I can say it wasn’t a decision that I think the Chairman is aware of. The letter that the Chairman of the PAC referred to was seeking documentation for audit for the year 2017. As a result, I requested that they give me time for those documents to be submitted. I replied to the Auditor General in writing suggesting to him the amount of information requested and the process that would be applied. I said the 15th June would be the deadline in which I would submit it. It was done…,” Morrison explained.

Copies of both correspondences were seen by this newspaper.

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