Ministry fails to account for $40M+ spending

first_img…pays greens vendor .5M instead of 0,000Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary Alfred King was on Monday hauled over the proverbial coals during this week’s sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, which was abruptly brought to a halt when the accounting officer was unable to produce a breakdown of $47 million used at the Amerindian Hostel. King’s almost one-hour interrogation by PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali was brought to a premature close when he was asked to provide a breakdown of the money used for dietary supplies at the Amerindian Hostel.He was earlier unable to provide specific details on a $6.7 million contract with a Bourda Market ‘greens vendor’.Asked to account for the remainder of the $47 million allocation used for dietary supplies in 2015, King told the PAC he would need 20 minutes since that information was at the office. Ali immediately suspended the proceedings, but on his return, the Permanent Secretary was still unable to provide a breakdown of the more than $40 million.In 2015, King was not the PS at the Indigenous Affairs Ministry but rather it was Vibert Arthur Welch. Welch, who is now the PS of the Education Ministry, is in hot water of the use public funds to build a guard hut at his private residence, which cost more than $500,000 to construct.Non-existent registerKing was found to be misleading too when he had earlier in the session told the PAC that one of the contractors in question was sourced from the Ministry’s register of suppliers.King assured the Committee Members of the existence of the register, but this was found not to be the case.The whirlwind session saw the Permanent Secretary visibly frazzled throughout the proceedings, changing answers seconds after advancing them in addition to the contradictory statements on the expenditure approved by that office.The PAC was at the time scrutinising the expenditure and addressing the financial discrepancies raised by the Auditor General in his 2015 Report.OverpaymentOne glaring discrepancy for which the Permanent Secretary was unable to provide ready answers related to a $2.5 million payment.The Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry had prepared a voucher to make the payment to a Bourda Market vendor for the supply of fruits, greens and vegetables.The Committee heard that the voucher was prepared on December 15, 2015 for $251,000, but a cheque was actually made out to the supplier for $2.5 million and the Ministry to date has been unable to recover the total amount.It was revealed that the voucher was inputted into the Government Integrated Financial Management System (IFMAS) on December 29 of that year in order to have the cheque cut before the end of the financial year.The $2.5 million cheque was encashed in January the next yearThe discrepancies raised concerning that supplier Devindra Sugrim were not limited to the overpayment.In fact, King told the Committee that the supplier was based on institutional memory at the Ministry in the form of a register. This was also found not to be true.King earlier told the Committee that the supplier was secured using a three quota system, but was unable to clearly inform the PAC how exactly the supplier was chosen by the Ministry.The transaction raised eyebrows, even as King attempted to defend ‘shopping around’ using the three quotation system.Over the limitOther discrepancies were raised surrounding approval for expenditure by the Ministry more than twice the ministerial limit.One such payment was found to be for $663,480 while the limit is set at $250,000.Another discrepancy raised with the Permanent Secretary was the monitoring of contracts by the Ministry.The PAC heard that the Ministry was currently compiling a database and are simultaneously addressing the new contracts and the backlog.King will have to return before the PAC at a date to be set by the body.Other Government departments to come under scrutiny by the PAC on Monday were the Foreign Affairs and Education Ministries.last_img read more