Permanent Secretary surcharged in Laws of Guyana contract probe
Guyana Chronicle
February 28, 2002

A TOP public officer at the centre of a Laws of Guyana printing controversy has been surcharged by the Government after he was found involved in financial and accounting irregularity by investigators.

Permanent Secretary in the Legal Affairs Ministry, Mr. Ganga Persaud, who was sent on special leave last year following a controversy over the printing of revised Laws of Guyana, has been surcharged $500,000.

This was reported yesterday by Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon at a post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown.

Persaud was sent on special leave, with full pay, since last July, pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged "improper" execution of a US$220,500 contract for the printing of Laws of Guyana volumes.

The officer, who executed the contract on behalf of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, was alleged to have done so without seeking the requisite "no objection" from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The controversial contract was executed on March 15, 2001, awarded by the Legal Affairs Ministry to the U.S.-based New Global Consults, to print several volumes of the Laws of Guyana, without the necessary financial procedures being adhered to.

A team which was appointed in November last year to investigate the award included Supreme Court Registrar, Ms. Sita Ramlall and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Communications, Mr. Kenneth Jordan.

Luncheon yesterday said that the Office of the President has received and accepted the report of the investigation.

"The report that was submitted, and which was endorsed by the President, found that the Permanent Secretary contributed to and was responsible for the financial and accounting irregularity involved in the award of the contract. The P.S. has, as a result, been surcharged at the value of $500,000," Luncheon told reporters.

Questioned on the chances of Persaud returning to work in the Public Service, he said the P.S. will have to go back to work to pay the surcharge. "I don't see any other ways in which it can be done," he said.

Noting that although it has not been "put in writing" as yet, the instructions entailed the need to end the special leave and for Persaud to resume work as the P.S. in the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Asked how long or over what period Persaud has to pay the surcharge, Luncheon said he was not in a position to say. He, however, asserted that any sensible person would want to negotiate with the administration, since he doubted whether anyone in the Public Service would want to pay $500,000 in full on one occasion.

"I sense that the terms would have to be agreed upon between the officer and the Accountant General's Department over which time repayments would be concluded," he said.

On whether Persaud was given a chance to reply to the allegations and subsequent findings in the report, Luncheon said the officer was before the investigative team to give his version. Nevertheless, he said such an opportunity could be available "if the officer was of the opinion that such an option should be exercised".

He also noted that Persaud was being paid his full salary since being sent on special leave, according to the new Public Service Commission rules which state that an officer who is facing disciplinary procedures be paid his full salary.

Questioned about the basis of arriving at the $500,000 surcharge, Luncheon repeated that the investigative team felt that Persaud "contributed to and was responsible for financial and accounting irregularity".

"I think the surcharge, whilst it could be related to the outcome of financial irregularity or accounting irregularity, (is a) more punitive measure to discourage the recurrence or discourage (and penalise) others from...engaging in those stints of commission," Luncheon said.

He also noted that the then Attorney General, Mr. Charles Ramson was not found by the investigative team to be involved in the controversy and no finger was pointed at him.

Luncheon, however, noted that based on the report of the investigative team, two of the "factors" that contributed to the irregularities by the P.S. were the fact that he was "thrown into (by his then recent appointment as P.S.) the project that was ongoing", and the unavailability of all the necessary information about certain aspects, particularly funding.

According to the Cabinet Secretary, the report by the investigative team "established that a file was deficient and indeed correspondence that ought to have been in the file was the time...Persaud accessed (it)...and used its content as the basis for making these decisions." - (MARK RAMOTAR)