Written by Devina Samaroo
It was high drama on Monday morning (May 29, 2017) when the Finance Director of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Ronald Charles was ordered to leave the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after he failed to answer several questions pertaining to the entity’s finances.
Charles told the PAC that he was not fully aware of the entity’s finances and repeatedly informed the Chairman of the PAC, Irfaan Ali, that he will have to recheck and clarify certain requested information.
Officials were at the time answering questions in relation to issues highlighted in the Auditor General’s 2015 report.
An already frustrated Ali declared that it made no sense to continue the exercise given the accounting officer’s inability to provide the desired answers and subsequently asked that he along with the Chief Executive Officer, Allan Johnson exit the chambers.
The issue being considered was in relation to the non-submission of the financial statements for 2015 and 2016 which the PAC Chairman noted is a breach of the Public Corporation Act.
The GPHC CEO admitted that after more than one year, no disciplinary actions were taken against those responsible. When pressed by Ali, Johnson said he will write the Finance Director on the matter.
At this point, PAC Member, Bishop Juan Edghill argued that such an approach is unacceptable since the problem was highlighted in the 2015 report and yet no action has been taken since to address the matter.
Ali then asked how much money was retained by the GPHC and not returned to the Consolidated Fund at the end of the two years. Johnson responded by saying that all the monies were returned.
However, the Finance Director subsequently indicated that the monies were not returned.
After stumbling and stuttering to provide coherent responses, Charles said he will have to clarify the issue.
It was at this point when he expressed, “I am not the Finance Director, per say.”
Johnson then attempted to explain that Charles is actually in charge of procurement and that the substantive Finance Director is on sick leave.
Edghill suspected that these were deliberate actions to frustrate the work of the PAC and reprimanded the two officials for being unprepared.
“I am taking a very serious view of the CEO of the GPHC coming to PAC with one member of staff who is not capable and in possession with all of the information….For him to show up this morning with a gentleman who doesn’t know what’s going on, is it deliberate? Is he following instructions?” Edghill questioned.
As the GPHC officials were leaving, a heated exchange ensued between Edghill and Charles.
Edghill declared, “You should hang your head in shame and leave the room. Any CEO worth his salt would have come here with a proper team.”
The CEO responded by saying, “I am a big man” to which Edghill countered, “well, behave like a big man.”
Edghill then grumbled, “He is upsetting me…You believe I have nothing to do when Monday mornings come.”
The officials are expected to return at another date to continue to the examination by the PAC.