Public servants bowing to “political pressure” – former Minister

first_img2017 AG ReportAn examination of the 2017 Auditor General’s (AG) Report that was recently tabled in the National Assembly points to a large number of issues piled up on the already heavy stack of financial irregularities and breaches that have taken place under the coalition Government.Former Junior Finance Minister, Opposition MP Juan Edghill, says public accounting officers are bowing to political pressureBut even more worrying is the fact that public servants, mainly Permanent Secretaries, Regional Executive Officers (REO) and other public accounting officers, may be bowing to ‘political pressure,’ says former Junior Finance Minister and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill.“It is a clear case that accounting officers are either unaware of what are their roles and/or they are succumbing to pressure from their ministers…or we have a situation of ‘I don’t care a dam’ approach to the management of the finances of the State,” he told <> on Sunday.The former minister said that having studied aspects of the report, he has come to a conclusion that this is a worrying development which could possibly become more widespread.Edghill has said that if public servants are under any such pressure, they must come to the fore and say it.“Let people know how this country is being mismanaged, and how politics and intimidation and bullyism (are) being used to twist the arms of public officials to act in a manner that is inimical to their mandate and the public’s interest,” he has advised.Edghill says he has noticed recklessness, violations that are unheard of, mismanagement, and a high degree of incompetence in some of what has been recorded in the AG report. The first matter he pointed to involved the highly controversial D’Urban Park project. He recalled that Government went to Parliament to seek a supplementary provision of $5 million to pay a debt that was incurred by Homestretch Development Inc, which was developing the D’Urban Park project. The question was asked by the Opposition, how the money will be transferred.“Here, the AG is saying that the Permanent Secretary who is in charge of this budget agency of Public Infrastructure cut cheques and sent (them) directly to Homestretch Development Inc, and there was nothing attached to those payments to show how the money was disbursed,” he noted.Put on noticeEdghill therefore questioned why a Permanent Secretary would make such a reckless move. “Or is this PS under political pressure to do something that he knows that he will have to answer to at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)? So I can put him on notice: ‘See you soon!’”Another controversial matter that Edghill pointed to is the sole-sourcing, in June 2017, of $366.9 million in emergency drugs to HDM Labs, an entity that was handpicked over three other companies that had gone through tendering and were declared to have failed the evaluation process.“That is what you call a fixed arrangement. They ended up paying $100 million more on the same items (than) if they had gone to a next supplier providing the same items.“Why would a Permanent Secretary breach procurement laws to expend $100 million more for the procurement of drugs? To that PS, I say to you: ‘See you at PAC! We will discuss it further’.”The MP also pointed to another glaring case of financial mismanagement in the Berbice region, where the price for the work of a contractor and the engineer’s estimate were item for item, line for line identical. “What is worse, he does the work and signs the contract. Which REO could authorise a work, and when the work is completed you sign the contract?” he questioned. He continued, “So public officials are making these decision as if they don’t have to answer or account; or they should come to the public and do so like the General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge did when he said he was instructed by Minister David Patterson (Public Infrastructure) to sign the contract for the feasibility study without the board’s knowledge.”The former Junior Finance Minister said it is also perplexing how — in an environment wherein people are expected to be accountable, and based on the David Granger-led Administration’s promise to be accountable and transparent — accounting officers are acting recklessly.The Opposition MP said public officers have to be mindful that they are governed by the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, and have a responsibility to their country. (Samuel Sukhnandan)last_img

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