Police Force in multimillion dollar breach of Procurement Act, says Public Accounts Committee

Last Updated on Monday, 10 July 2023, 22:38 by Denis Chabrol

The Public Accounts Committee in session on June 10,2023.

The bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on Monday said the Guyana Police Force breached the Procurement Act by paying all of the GY$123.344 million to the same supplier for four contracts within one month of the award although none of the items had been delivered.

“That was a breach of the Procurement Act. You can’t pay upfront all of the money,” government member of the PAC, Gail Teixeira remarked. She added that the law stipulates the percentage to be paid in advance, and in some instances, monies could be retained for defects liability.

The second breach, according to Ms Teixeira, was that the police force did not receive any supplies. “Having paid up all the money, the police had nothing to hold on to. They just had to wait until the supplier was able to deliver and that’s why you don’t pay all the money upfront,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mae Toussaint Jr. Thomas-Meerabux conceded that “it was a clear breach of the procurement system” and that was no longer being done. “The Act is honoured,” she remarked.

Assistant Commissioner Calvin Brutus, in responding to questions initiated by opposition PAC member Ganesh Mahipaul, told the committee that the contracts were awarded to M.S. Trading and the awards were made by cabinet. “The items were subsequently supplied. I think they had the issue of COVID which impacted shipping,” he said. However, Mr Mahipaul noted that COVID began in March, 2020.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mae Toussaint Jr. Thomas-Meerabux and Assistant Police Commissioner Calvin Brutus (centre).

Mr Mahipaul noted that the Auditor General’s report states that the contracts were awarded in December 2019 under several line items and the full contract sum was paid to the supplier on January 2 and January 6, 2020 “before any of the items were supplied in breach of the condition of the contracts.” Commenting on the transaction, the opposition lawmaker said 100 percent of the contract sum was paid but nothing was delivered. “This has nothing to do with cabinet or government. This has everything to do with facilitating the payment,” he said.

The Auditor General’s Report notes that the supplier failed to supply the items within the stipulated time. According to that document, up to October 5, 2020, items totalling GY$36.910 million were still outstanding. Further, at a meeting held on October 16, 2020, it was disclosed that the supplier had delivered additional items on those contracts and efforts had been made to have the supplier deliver the additional supplies, but audit checks on October 22, 2020 revealed that items totalling GY$22.193 million were still outstanding.

Auditor General Deodat Sharma told PAC that the latest update from State auditors was that all of the items had now been supplied, contrary to a three-month old statement that GY$22.193 million worth of items were yet to be supplied.  The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs told the PAC that a report would be provided to the Chairman of that accountability body in two weeks. Those items included office materials and supplies, janitorial cleaning supplies, electrical materials, and equipment maintenance materials.

The Auditor General was asked by the PAC to submit an updated reconciliation on that paragraph that deals with those supplier contracts that were awarded to M.S. Trading.

Government PAC member, Dharamkumar Seeraj said notwithstanding the Auditor General’s remark that the items were all supplied, the fact was that the Procurement Act was violated. “This clearly is a breach of the Procurement Act so I hope that the accounting officer/head of agency will make note and to avoid a reoccurrence,” he said.