Army breaching tender board, other procedures -Goolsarran By Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
June 7, 2002

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The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) flouts tender board regulations and continues to breach procedures, including the absence of competitive bidding and numerous instances of contract splitting to avoid adjudication by the Central Tender Board.

Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, in his 2000 report on the public accounts, underscored that the involvement of the Departmental Tender Board appeared to be purely cosmetic to facilitate payments by the sub-treasury.

Looking at the GDF's accounts for 2000, Goolsarran cited cases where millions of dollars were spent but no quotations were sought; adjudication on purchases were not made by the departmental tender board; contracts were split to avoid adjudication by the Central Tender Board; there was a lack of involvement of the Ministerial Tender Board.

Specifically, he said for purchases falling within $90,000 and $180,000, there was no evidence of a system of quotations being followed before purchases were effected. He found no evidence of the departmental tender board involvement in 21 purchases valued at $6.88 million. And for 24 purchases totalling $6.6 million, which were awarded by the departmental tender board, Goolsarran found no evidence of competitive bidding.

He said the Central Tender Board was not involved in four purchases valued at $22.1 million and pointed out that similar breaches were observed in his 1999 report. Test checks found that the items were purchased and brought to account.

In relation to building materials purchased, 216 miscellaneous payments totalling $6.3 million were made, all falling below $90,000 and there was no evidence of quotations for 29 payments totalling $3.5 million falling within the $90,000 and $180,000 limit. Eight purchases totalling $2.1 million in this category and falling within the $180,000 to $600,000 limit were not adjudicated by the departmental tender board as required. Further, competitive bidding could not be determined in seven contracts adjudicated by the departmental tender board.

Similar breaches were made in relation to janitorial and cleaning materials; repairs to eight buildings; maintenance of infrastructure; repairs and servicing of equipment such as generators, radios, pump, aircraft spares etc; cleaning and exterminating services; sourcing of dietary suppliers, clothing, equipment, agriculture farm supplies, accommodation items and entertainment and sports, all costing millions of dollars.

The contract for the timber ramp for the coast guard was also awarded without any system of competitive bidding by the departmental tender board. The contract value was $5.29 million and should have been awarded by the Central Tender board but Cabinet granted a waiver of tender board procedures in February 2001. Goolsarran said the work had not been completed by December 31, 2000 but the full contract sum was paid to the contractor on December 29, 2000 for mobilisation, payment on first valuation and final payment.

The rehabilitation of the playfield was also carried out by splitting the contract; six were awarded by the departmental tender board and one by the central tender board with no competitive bidding.

Quotations from various providers were not sought for the hiring of vehicles costing $57 million by the GDF and the adjudication of the contracts was not done by the ministerial tender board as was required. The same situation applied in respect of vehicle spares and services costing $3.4 million.

Additionally, Goolsarran pointed out that revenue from the commercial operation of the GDF aircraft was used to defray expenses in connection with the aircraft operations and said this was a breach of the law and the money should have been paid over to the Consolidated Fund. He noted that this matter was drawn to the attention of the authorities in previous reports and there was no evidence that attempts were made to comply.

In the case of employment costs, the report noted that the salaries bank account held at the GNCB reflected a balance of $25.2 million at the end of 2000 and the account was reconciled to that date. However, Goolsarran said an examination of the bank statement for 2000 showed an unreconciled difference of $13.5 million. He said similar unreconciled differences of varying amounts were observed for the entire period under review and the accounting officer could not give a satisfactory explanation.

The auditor general said that it was a requirement for the salaries cash book to reflect a nil balance at the end of each month as a control mechanism for the payment of wages and salaries, but the cash book reflected significant balances at the end of each month. This, he said, was as a result of the failure to prepare salaries cheques for officers stationed in interior locations before the end of the month as well as deduction cheques to the relevant agencies. He said that efforts ought to be made to ensure compliance with the laid down procedures.

The GDF's unpaid salaries bank account at the Bank of Guyana reflected a balance of $6.6 million at the end of 2000 as a result of unclaimed salaries over the year. But the cash book balance was $2.32 million. Goolsarran again recommended that the balance relating to previous years be established so that transfers could be made to the Consolidated Fund. He said up to the time of reporting, the balance was not paid over to the sub treasury to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund.

Goolsarran also noted that in his 1995 report he had spoken of an unpaid liability of $14.69 million at the end of that year to the unpaid salaries bank account which resulted from the irregular use of the account to meet other appropriation account expenses. However, to date, he said, there was no evidence of any action taken to settle the issue.

And according to the appropriation account, Goolsarran said, $1.92 million was due to the Consolidated Fund at the end of 2000 but up to the time of reporting only $308,661 had been transferred. Goolsarran urged that action be taken to transfer the outstanding $1.6 million to the Consolidated Fund.

Goolsarran in his 1998 report had found shortages of fuel totalling $176,900 and two ranks were fired. But a loss report was not filed with the Secretary to the Treasury for the stock records to be adjusted, though the latter had been done. He said the accounting officer of the GDF said the Secretary to the Treasury was written to but no evidence was provided to support this and Goolsarran again recommended that covering approval be sought.

In his 1999 report, 60 gallons of gasoline issued to a hired vehicle had been outstanding and this amount had not been recovered. Goolsarran is again recommending that the accounting officer take steps to recover the amount involved.

In his 2000 report, Goolsarran said bin cards were not maintained for the receipt and issue of fuel and lubricants. It could not be determined whether $83.9 million worth of fuel and lubricants were received and properly bought to account.

He could not determine whether there was effective control over the use of 37 vehicles owned and operated by the force. He also found that a motor car number DFB 1199, was issued with 136 and 80 pints of lubricating oil in February and March 2000 respectively and said these amounts appeared excessive and should be investigated.

Further, a sum of $14.79 million was expended for cooking and welding gas as well as $2.67 million as the cost of 131 20-pound cylinders of cooking gas. But only 24 cylinders were located. No explanation could be given for the missing cylinders and the officer in charge of the stores said that the matter was being investigated.