PAC Says Only Half of a 40 Million Dollar Grant was Properly Accounted for by the then PUP Government
Today, after almost a two months break, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) met at the National Assembly to resume discussion of the Auditor General’s report. In today’s PAC meeting, the monies for the 20 million US dollar grant received from Venezuela, which was granted through the Venezuelan Housing Project back in 2008, was scrutinized.
According to Hon. John Saldivar, Pro Temp Chair of PAC, the Auditor General’s report shows that only half of the 20 million US dollars was properly accounted.
“This morning, we were looking at the Venezuelan Housing Projects; you know, the US$20M that was granted to the country, half of which came initially and was given in a 30 days period by the People’s United Party government prior to the 2008 elections and the $20M which we eventually got back from them under this new government, but the report of the Auditor General covered that first
$20M that was spent between 2007 and February of 2008”.
Reporter: “Were there any missing accounts of any sort?”
Hon. John Saldivar: “Well, as I said the second $20M was missing which was letter recovered; second of all, half of the money was accounted for in terms of invoices, payment invoices, and so on. Quite a bit of it, the Auditor General indicated that the invoices were not provided for how the money was spent. Some of it, about $1.5M were put in commercial bank accounts and then disbursed to recipients, which was contrary to financial orders and that sort of stuff, but it was very interesting what has happened under that program”.
The financial accountability system, according to the Pro Temp Chair, has a lot of short comings:
Hon. John Saldivar: “There are quite a bit of shortcoming when it comes to our financial accountability system. Once we are finished with these hearings, we rae going to compile a report, which will go to the other members of the National Assembly with a view to seeing how we can improve to become more strict, put better regulations and better laws in place so that things can’t occur as what occurred in this Venezuelan project. For instance, we have learnt that certain procedures at the Treasury were overridden, were waived in order to try to speed up the dispensing of money under this project, It happened within 30 days before the general election in 2008 when you could imagine that therewas a need for speed on the part of the then government to get this money out”.
Improving financial accountability is only one of the steps that is being undertaken; another, says the Hon. Minister, is improving the process of the hearing itself. Today the issue of whether the auditor general’s report should include names of public workers, who are believed to have been involved in certain breaches found within the financial records, was brought to attention.
Hon. John Saldivar: “I think that the Auditor General indicated that te work leading up to the compilation of the report that the names on that sort of thing do come up between the Auditor General’s office and the various Ministries when they do their audit queries. It has not been the practice for public officers to b named, unless some law was broken, but it’s a matter for the Auditor General to bring to the attention of the CEO or the Financial Secretary that certain regulations have been broken. The current Auditor General has asked for a meeting with myself and other members of the committee to see how we can improve even this process that we are undertaking in terms of the hearing”.
The following PAC hearing takes place on Wednesday January 29th.