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Auditor General recommends police probe into GYD$170 million lawyers’ fees for political court cases

Last Updated on Sunday, 3 January 2021, 18:20 by Writer

Auditor General Deodat Sharma says procurement procedures were not followed by the then A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration to hire local and foreign lawyers to fight a series of political court cases from December, 2018 to July, 2020.

Other cases for a number of government agencies were also cited in the total bill of GYD$170,828,203.

The first case, which was filed in January, 2019, challenged the validity of the December, 2018 no-confidence motion and the last one was in July concerning the validity of the recounted votes that were cast in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.

Mr Sharma recommended in his report, dated December 22, 2020 and released by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall on Sunday, that police be called in to “conduct an in-depth investigation and institute charges where necessary.”

The Auditor General also said disciplinary action should be taken against those culpable and that the ministry must “ensure that there is full compliance with the Procurement Act 2003 with respect of awarding of contracts.”

That recommendation comes against the backdrop of the Auditor General finding that based on the documents examined, there was no evidence to conclude that these contracts were publicly advertised.” Mr Sharma said that was a breach of the Public Procurement Act of 2003 which states that public tendering is mandatory. He notes that not only tendering or prequalification is mandatory, but the procuring entity must maintain a record of the procurement proceedings including the means used to solicit suppliers or contractors and a record of any such advertisements.

The Auditor General found, in his audit, that direct contracting or single source method was used to award those contracts. He says the Guide to the Public Procurement Procedures, states that where contracts are to be awarded regularly, or are to be renewed within a specified period of time, the contract value is established on the basis of the actual aggregate cost of similar contracts or services awarded over the previous twelve months or financial year, and adjusted where possible for anticipated changes in the value or quantity.

Mr Sharma said it was observed that cases where the Attorney/Firm would have represented the Ministry of Legal Affairs at more than one Court hearings, approval was sought from the Ministerial Tender Board (MTB) and later on at the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) for the additional hearing and vice versa.

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January 2021