November 19, 2017

Millions spent on undelivered Forensic Lab supplies

By Jarryl Bryan

The Public Security Ministry has been flagged by Auditor General (AG) Deodat Sharma in his 2016 report for not being in compliance with the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA) and the Procurement Act 2003.
According to the AG in his report, the Ministry went back on its own agreement when procuring goods and paid an unnamed overseas contractor, who was supplying the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory, for goods it did not receive.

Auditor General
Deodat Sharma

Detailing the transaction, it was noted that for 2016, amounts totalling Gy$999.7 million was spent to procure goods and services. This includes a sum of Gy$145.6 million which went towards purchasing drugs, medical supplies and field material. There was also a Gy$21.9 million agreement with the overseas supplier for forensic laboratory materials for the Laboratory, located at Turkeyen.
Zeroing in on the agreement, the Auditor General noted that it mandated 50 per cent of the advance payment be paid within seven days of the contract being signed, after the supplier provides a bond for the advance from a recognised financial institution.
The other half was supposed to be paid when the items were delivered, inspected and certified by the relevant agency. A penalty clause also ensured that fees at a rate of 0.03 per week to a maximum of 10 per cent of the contract sum would be charged for late execution of the order.
But on June 27, 2017, the overseas supplier was paid Gy$9.9 million when it delivered forensic laboratory materials worth just Gy$3.1 million. The Auditor General noted that materials valued at Gy$6.7 million were not delivered, at odds with the agreement the Ministry signed.
In its response to the audit findings, the head of the budget agency indicated that efforts would be made to contact the supplier in hopes of having the items delivered.
However, the Auditor General recommended that legal action be taken by the head of the budget agency for the items. It was also recommended that the cheques be updated and refunded to the Consolidated Fund.
The law is very clear about the procedure for unspent monies in Government departments, once the monies came from the Consolidated Fund. Section 43 of the FMA Act states: “Except as otherwise provided in this Act or in any other law, at the end of each fiscal year, any unexpended balance of public monies issued out of the Consolidated Fund shall be returned and surrendered to the Consolidated Fund.”

The Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory

It is not the first time the Public Security Ministry has been flagged by the Audit Office for paying monies for goods not received. Earlier this year, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Daniella Mc Calmon was grilled by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over questionable transactions dating back to 2014.
It was found that an American company, Tactical Supplier Inc., was sole sourced by the then Home Affairs Ministry to provide an Industrial Washer and Dryer. Despite payment being made for the items, they were not delivered.
Government has, some time ago, pronounced that the Forensic Laboratory would be fully functional by 2018, once it has the requisite staff and equipment. In several high-profile cases, samples from murder victims have had to be sent overseas by the Police for DNA testing.