Probe ongoing into fuel scam at Ministry of Education

-GDF officer’s vehicle guzzled $256,000 in petrol, lubricants per month

The GuyOil flagship station on Regent Street

Investigations have been launched into the unauthorized collection of millions of dollars’ worth of fuel on behalf of the Ministry of Education and heavy consumption by a  Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Toyota Mark X, according to the 2017 Auditor General’s report.

In the case of the GDF, the Mark X belonging to a senior officer consumed just over $3M worth of gas for 2017 while at the Ministry of Education unauthorized vehicles visited a GUYOIL gas station during the month of December and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel. A similar situation which occurred in Region Four during 2011 is still under police investigation.

According to the report which was tabled in the National Assembly last month, six vehicles not registered as property of the Ministry of Education were used to uplift 4,351 litres of diesel valued $788,773 from GUYOIL’s Regent Street location in December 2017 on thirteen occasions. “This indicated that on average, in excess of one ‘45 gallons’ drum was uplifted on each occasion. We could not determine the basis on which such quantities of fuel were uplifted, and whether it was in the public’s interest,” the report states.

Auditor General Deodat Sharma informed that the ministry wrote the police in January to investigate the matter. The Ministry also sent a follow-up letter to the police in February this year, seeking to learn the status of the investigation, he said. In its response, the ministry acknowledged this finding and stated that the matter is currently being investigated by the police.

The Audit Office has recommended that the ministry follow-up with the police to expedite the investigation.

Lubricants

In the case of GDF, the report states that during the period under review (January 1 to December 31), amounts totalling $569.949M were expended on the purchase of fuel and lubricants for that entity.

An analysis of fuel consumption revealed that $10.633M was expended on fuel and lubricants for Senior Officers, of which a Mark X motor car consumed fuel totalling $3.071M, an average consumption of $256,242 per month, it added.

The GDF in its response disclosed that an investigation is ongoing with regards to the Mark X’s fuel consumption.

The Audit Office has recommended that the Administration of the Defence Force take action to introduce measures for strict control over acquisition of fuel.

The occurrence in Region Four mirrored that of the Education Ministry.

According to the report during 2011, fuel amounting to $733,076 was uplifted for three vehicles that were not owned by the Regional Administration. Checks made at the Licence Revenue Office revealed that two of these vehicles were never registered with the Regional Administration, the reports states, while adding that “this matter is the subject of a Police investigation which was still on-going at the time of reporting.”

Meanwhile, the Audit Office has concluded a special investigation into the alleged theft of fuel and lubricants, which were uplifted by drivers from the Regional Democratic Council – Region Four at the GUYOIL Gas Station located in Kitty, Georgetown from 01-31 January 2013. It was disclosed that a separate report was issued, which included recommendations for disciplinary action and possible criminal charges against the alleged perpetrators.

In response to Sharma’s findings, the region explained that there has been no progress to date with regards to the 2011 investigation despite numerous follow-ups.

Sharma has recommended that the Regional Administration continue to ensure that systems are functioning effectively and provide the necessary information to the Audit Office when the police conclude the investigation.

Poor record-keeping

Meanwhile, the report said that poor record-keeping regarding the purchasing of fuel and lubricants was discovered in Regions One, Eight and Nine.

According to the Appropriation Accounts for Region One, amounts totalling $139.954M were expended on Fuel and Lubricants for 2017. However, there was no reconciliation between the quantity of fuel received from the supplier with that of the total amounts paid in 2017, the report said while adding that as a result, it could not be determined whether the Regional Administration was in receipt of the full amount of fuel purchased.

Additionally, an audit examination of the Payment Vouchers and other related documents pertaining to fuel and lubricants revealed that a Fuel Register was not maintained for the period under review and as at 17 July 2018 the Bin Cards reflected a balance of 567 gallons dieseline (12 ½ drums) and 241 gallons of gasoline (5 ¼ drums) in the fuel bond and several attempts made to conduct a physical count proved futile.

It was also discovered that fuel was bought by drums and then converted into gallons by the Regional Administration. “An examination of the Bin Cards pertaining to gasoline revealed an amount of 817 drums (36,767 gallons) was received by the Regional Administration from various suppliers. However, it was noted that amounts totalling 1,009 drums (45,420 gallons) were reflected as issued. As a result, the records indicated an excess of 192 drums (8,653 gallons) of gasoline being issued,” according to the findings.

The report added that the examination of the accounts found that the fuel was stored in one bond, for all four programmes, which have a maximum capacity of fifty drums of gasoline (2,250 gallons) and ten drums of dieseline (450 gallons) at any given time. However evidence was seen where fuel was purchased in quantities beyond the capacity of the Bond.

Further, an audit inspection conducted on 11 July 2018 during the process of receiving fuel from a supplier and off-loading same via a pump into the tanks within the bond found that during the process, “there was no supervisory personnel present to witness this activity.”

The region in its response indicated that a register has since been implemented; the excesses will be investigated and the results sent to the Audit Office; and in future, staff will always be present to supervise the receipt of fuel.

Timely reconciliation

It was recommended that the Regional Administration ensure the timely reconciliation of fuel purchased and received;  the implementation and maintenance of a fuel register to monitor fuel; proper record-keeping of stores and proper monitoring and supervision upon delivery of fuel.

According to the report, the Regional Administration – Region Eight, expended amounts totalling $69.791M on the procurement of fuel and lubricants for the year 2017 on a credit basis from a local representative of GUYOIL in the Region. However, reconciliations of payments made against the fuel and lubricants received by the Regional Administration were not done.

“As a result, it was difficult to determine if the Regional Administration received all fuel and lubricants paid for,” the report said, while adding that similar observations were made in previous reports.

In response, the region said that efforts will be made to engage a qualified person who is capable to reconcile the fuel received with the payments made. It was recommended that the Regional Administration ensure controls are in place for the acquisition and monthly reconciliation of fuel.

Regarding Region Nine, the report stated that an audit examination revealed four instances where 9,449 litres of gasoline valuing $2.079M was recorded in the Fuel Register but was not recorded in the Goods Received Book.

Additionally, it was observed in the month of July 2017, that 6,075 litres of gasoline was recorded as received in the Goods Received Book, however, the departmental Fuel Register only reflected the receipt of 5,477 litres of fuel, a difference of 598 litres valuing $131,560.

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