IMPORTANT financial and other records concerning the Carifesta X activities held here in Guyana have been destroyed, Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma, overseeing a number of state audits, has said.
The audit also revealed so far that approximately Gy$1B were spent. Sharma told the media that the audit into CARIFESTA X is complete, but there were several challenges. “Basically, with CARIFESTA and other activities that was over a period of time, like six years…there was a difficulty in obtaining records… the records were damaged and so forth,” said Sharma as he fielded questions about the various audits undertaken by this administration.
The minister noted that the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act stipulates that all entities maintain records for a period of seven years. “I would have thought that they would have preserved those records,” said Sharma. He said, however, that his ministry now has a better understanding of how the event was funded, and a “little insight into it; and it gives us an understanding how to plan if we are to carry out another exercise like that.”
CARIFESTA X festivities were held in Guyana in August 2008. Former Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony, had said an audit would have been done into CARIFESTA X activities by the Auditor General. He had also said that the audited accounts would have been made available. This did not happen, years after his promise.
The former administration hosted CARIFESTA X to the tune of Gy$500M. The opening ceremony was held at the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, and was equipped with modern lighting systems. An American lighting company, MUSCO, was awarded the contract to install 160 feet of lights. Cabinet at the time had approved the procurement of a stage at US$605,519; other contracts were awarded for the upgrading of the eastern and western pavilions of the National Park at costs of $8M and $13M respectively.
$2.3M were also awarded for the upgrade of a culvert located at Dennis Street.
Several venues were used to host the CARIFESTA activities, namely: the Umana Yana, the National Cultural Centre, the Theatre Guild, the National Conference Centre, the National Park, the National Exhibition Site, the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, the various museums, the National Library, Castellani House, the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, the National Gymnasium, the University of Guyana, the Parade Ground, the Botanical Gardens, and the Seawall band stand.
Meanwhile, giving an update on the overall audits, Minister Sharma said the findings so far are “very revealing.” He said the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) is currently being audited. “I am looking presently at National Frequency Management Unit, and the findings are very revealing in terms of the entity. I believe, looking from the report, it (NFMU) was not properly managed.”
The minister noted that the audits are uncovering that many statutory bodies and semi-autonomous agencies operated in an “ad hoc way”.
He said findings show that “they would take instructions from cabinet and, of course, they have large sums of money in their possession; and the previous administration used them to fund activities which the National Assembly could not look at, or determine how the money was spent.”
Sharma reiterated that the audits are not aimed at targeting anyone, or witch-hunting anyone from the former administration. “As I said basically, these are statutory bodies and semi-autonomous agencies, so it wasn’t to target anybody or to see if any minister stole any money,” he said.
That can only be done if the government decides to carry out individual audits of the ministries.
“Only then we could pronounce on such things,” Minister Sharma stated.