G/town officials still to account for $475 million received in 2017, PAC hears
A snapshot of Monday’s PAC session
A snapshot of Monday’s PAC session

OFFICIALS at the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development were, on Monday, given two weeks to return to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with answers as to how $475.6 million was spent by the Georgetown Mayor & City Council (M&CC) in 2017.

This came as a result of the PAC examining the 2017 and 2018 Auditor General’s (AG) reports for the ministry, formerly known as the Ministry of Communities.

The committee further delved into the municipality’s reports at the time Patricia Chase-Greene served as Mayor, and Royston King as Town Clerk.

The Guyana Chronicle contacted current Town Clerk, Candace Nelson to seek further clarity on the matter in relation to the required documents for submission to the PAC.

Nelson noted that the officials will be expected to present responses to all of the queries that were raised at the recent Public Accounts Committee meeting on this and other matters.

This, she said, must be presented with all supporting documents. Nelson related that she would not be able to go into further details on the matter as she did not have all of the information at her reach at the time this newspaper contacted her.

During the committee’s meeting on Monday, Member of Parliament, Dharamkumar Seeraj, while examining the report for 2017 stated that the Cabinet of Ministers, in November of that same year, granted the approval of some $475.63 million to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council.

It was further noted that the payment details included exact periods and descriptions for particulars of services.

To this end, he stated that the AG, in the report, was unable to verify the accuracy, validity and completeness of the sum of $475.6 million that was paid to contractors.

Seeraj noted, based on the report, that documents provided were “sketchy” and further asked the ministry’s accounting officer if she was able to locate records that can account for the pay-out.

In response, the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Local Government, Prema Ramanah-Roopnarine stated that they found the Cabinet decision for the $475 million to pay out to the three contractors. A warrant was also recorded from the Ministry of Finance for $400 million.

She noted that the Ministry of Communities cut those checks using the Cabinet decision.

“We have since asked City Hall to provide a reconciliation [of] how they have arrived at these figures. I know that the Treasurer is trying to work to get this information,” Ramanah-Roopnarine said.
The PS went on to note that the Town Clerk and City Treasurer were able to find some copies of contracts relating to this issue. Those were shared with the auditors.

She added: “So, in conclusion, the Ministry of Communities made [available] $475 million based on a cabinet decision that clearly outlined who to pay, these three persons here… $400 million was released from the Ministry of Finance.”

To this end, she indicated that the balance was taken from another line item of the ministry’s allocation.

The PS, however, told the PAC that they are having severe difficulties getting the documents to justify the breakdown of the $475 million.

Against this background, the PS then asked the chair of the committee for two weeks to further locate additional documents and information in relation to this allocation.

As such, the officials were given two weeks to return to the PAC with a full report and breakdown of how the monies were spent.

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