I have read with some consternation the comments about the work of the Auditor General that were made by Minister of State Joseph Harmon, which were published by the Sunday Stabroek on February 25, 2018, comments that amount to nothing less than an attack on a constitutional office holder.
Editor, several offices are granted constitutional protection to ensure that they can perform their functions, in the interest, above all, of maintaining democratic gains, and holding the executive to account. Attacks of the nature seen by Minister Harmon are unacceptable. For an administration that promised accountability and transparency ahead of taking office in May 2015, the Minister’s comments represent a brazen about-face.
In this case the investigation by the Auditor General involves spending of over one billion taxpayer dollars. It is no small matter. Minister Harmon criticised the Auditor General for publicly commenting on the ongoing investigation of the D’Urban Park Development Project and for reaching out to a private company for information instead of the government. However, it was this government which admitted to paying over taxpayer monies to a private company for the D’Urban Park Project. Regardless of the views of this coalition government, the majority of the Guyanese people, I believe, welcome the work of the Auditor General, given that much about the project is shrouded in secrecy.
What we do know is that the D’Urban Park Project started in September 2015 and government had stated that donors were supporting its completion. We know that from November 2016 to January 22nd, 2016 there is no account of what money was collected, who collected it, who authorised the collection, or how it was spent.
We know that from January 22nd, 2016 to April 21st, 2016, the private company, according to Minister David Patterson, had control of financing and managing the project. That company is Homestretch Development Incorporated (HDI), which was reportedly established to fast-track its completion. We know that a government minister, Rupert Roopnaraine, was a director of HDI. The other directors included Larry London, Babita Ram, Victor Wilson and G Miller.
We know that from April 21st, 2016 to date, millions have been spent on the project. We know that to date there has been no documentation that inspires any confidence that this project was undertaken in a transparent manner.
The D’Urban Park project is the least of the many issues that have been raised in the public domain when it comes to millions being spent in a manner that is less than transparent. It is also the least of the issues that have been raised as it relates to a breach of basic procurement rules.
Lest we forget, it was none other the Auditor General himself who recorded 18 breaches of the Procurement Act in 2015 and 71 breaches in 2016. The Auditor General also noted that there were 21 breaches of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act in 2015 and 82 of the same Act in 2016.
Editor, given the importance of the work done by offices like that of the Auditor General, silence in the face of continued attacks on constitutional office holders will leave our nation disadvantaged as a developing democracy.
Adrian Anamayah, MP