Supreme Court flouted tender board regulations -Goolsarran
Several contracts short-supplied
Stabroek News
June 19, 2002

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The Supreme Court of Judicature continues to breach tender board regulations, splitting contracts to avoid adjudication by the departmental and central tender boards, Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran said in his report on the 2000 accounts of the government.

He uncovered several instances of apparent misappropriation of funds in the Georgetown and other magisterial districts, due to the absence of proper segregation of duties and the failure to reconcile bank accounts. He also found several cases where there was short supply of materials for projects undertaken and cases where entire contract sums were paid over but no work was done. Goolsarran unearthed evidence of subdivision of contracts to avoid public advertisement and adjudication by the departmental tender board. Seventy-nine contracts related to the maintenance of buildings and valued at $23.6 million were awarded on the sole authority of the Supreme Court's accounting officer. None of the contracts' value exceeded the limit of $450,000; 49 of them were within the $180,000 to $450,000 limit and 30 of them were below $180,000.

Three contracts awarded to person on same date Goolsarran found that three sets of these contracts were awarded to the same individual, with each set awarded on the same date. These were for repairs to Court VIII valued at $439,950, repairs to Court VI valued at $437,860; repairs to shelves at the sub-registry valued at $449,310, repairs to doors at the sub-registry valued at $449,000; installing rubberised step covering at the Supreme Court valued at $442,800 and painting the banister and rails to the steps at the Supreme court valued at $154,640.

Goolsarran further cited three contracts valued at $1.28 million, which were also awarded to the very individual on a single day and said had one contract been awarded for these jobs, it would have required adjudication by the Central Tender Board. The nature of work was repairs to courts VI and IX.

Additionally, certificates of satisfactory completion of works were not appended for six payment vouchers valued at $2.38 million and the physical verification of the work found that contracts were awarded for work in a courtroom not in existence.

No court X Contract No.152 valued at $437,340 was awarded for the placing of lattice work around the windows of courts IX and X, as well as their chambers and to allow for painting. However, checks at the Supreme Court revealed that there was no Court X, Goolsarran said in his report.

He said that contract No.162 valued at $443,200 was awarded in May 2000 for the replacing of rubber tiles with ceramic tiles at the judicial section of the Supreme Court, but there was no evidence of the work done although the contractor was paid the full contract sum. In August 2001, another contract, No.140, valued at $442,100 was awarded for the same work.

Contract No.52 was awarded for the replacement of the floor in Court VII, but only 26 yards of rubber matting was used instead of the 35 yards stated in the bill of quantity, a short supply valued at $36,000 on a contract worth $437,860. Another contract (No.103) valued at $174,000 for supplying and installing 12 notice boards with glass doors and locks saw only ten of these being supplied. Contract No.48 awarded for curtains for the chancellor's and secretary's offices, saw only 90 yards of material being used instead of 135 yards. The value of the material short supplied was $22,308 which is 33% the value of the contract. The Auditor General also noted that $2.9 million was spent on the maintenance of infrastructure mainly in relation to weeding the compound and repairs to the fence. In the case of the latter, he noted that two contracts, valued at $635,000 were awarded in what appeared to be subdivided contracts to avoid a system of public tendering and adjudication by the departmental tender board. Both contracts were awarded on the said day to the same individual and were for the welding of the fence on the western side of the Supreme Court valued at $350,000 and $285,000. In the case of the weeding, certificates attesting to the satisfactory completion of works were not appended to the two payment vouchers totalling $189,600.

In the case of transport, travel and postage, the audit office could not attest to the use of a sum of $515,860, which was reimbursed to a judicial officer for local travelling.

Meals Again in his 2000 report, Goolsarran expressed concern about the manner in which meals for prisoners and jurors were purchased. A sum of $2.923 million went to two individuals in 2000 for meals. Goolsarran is again advising that tenders from reputable caterers be invited at the start of the year and for the Central Tender Board to adjudicate on these. In the case of revenue accounting and control, Goolsarran pointed out shortcomings in this area and advised on their correction. He also recommended proper storekeeping to ensure accountability for public property.

Turning to the magistrate's department, Goolsarran said $12.9 million was expended on materials, equipment and supplies but 14 purchases valued at $1.5 million were not subject to storekeeping procedures. And alternative checks carried out could not verify the receipt of the items.

Three-quote system Fifty-five contracts valued at $17 million were awarded with one over the $450,000 limit and 19 below the $180,000 limit. The contract surpassing the $450,000 limit required adjudication by the departmental tender board, but was awarded by the accounting officer using a three-quote system, Goolsarran said. He repeated that efforts should be made to ensure strict compliance with tender board regulations.

Two contracts valued at $448,900 and $442,020 were also awarded to the same individual on the same day and Goolsarran noted that a single contract would have required public advertisement and adjudication by the departmental tender board. Again the accounting officer used the three-quote system to award these two contracts.

Physical verification of works undertaken for several other magistrate's courts also showed materials being short supplied against the amount stated on the bill of quantities. This included only 13 square yards of carpet being used on the floor of the Vreed-en-Hoop magistrate's court instead of 20 yards, a loss of $27,300. Contract No 40 was awarded to install 75 yards of rubberized matting at Court VIII, but only 25 yards were used, a short supply worth $200,000.

Fencing The contract valued at $448,470 for the fencing of the Cove and John Magistrate's court revealed a shortage of materials to the tune of $45,050 compared with the bill of quantities. Another contract to repair the court showed a short supply of $21,182.

A contract to construct rails at the Georgetown Magistrate's Court also saw $42,720 worth of material not being supplied. Another contract to install grillwork frames saw $41,000 worth of material being short supplied. Goolsarran also found that the Clerk of Court advanced from the main bank account $660,000 for the purchase of cleaning materials but bills/receipts were not attached to the payment voucher to substantiate payments and attempts to verify the receipt of the items were unsuccessful.

Bank accounts continue not to be reconciled in a timely manner, which Goolsarran again warned could lead to irregularities occurring. In relation to fees and fines, an amount of $206,075 was unaccounted for. In the case of commitment warrants in the East Demerara Magisterial district, an outstanding amount of $2.361 million was noted and Goolsarran said there was no indication whether the defendants were imprisoned for these amounts. In the same magisterial district, a magistrate imposed a fine of $20,000 on case jacket No. 1720/2000 and the duplicate receipt issued to the defendant reflected this amount. However, the triplicate receipt and the collectors' cash book statement reflected $15,000. This matter was drawn to the Clerk of Court's attention.

Various discrepancies were unearthed in the different magisterial district with concerns also raised about the reconciliation of the various accounts in use in these areas.