‘Excitement’ led to breach of financial laws at Region 2 RDC
By Bibi Khatoon
Regional Executive Officer of Region 2 (Pomeroon/Supenaam), Rupert Hopkinson told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament that himself and team were “excited” about saving monies, and this led the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) to breach more than one financial laws.
The REO was at the time being questioned about the use of monies budgeted for current expenditure to fund capital projects today.
He claimed that the council saved some $250M.
“I think we were caught up, we were excited about the fact that we’ve saved,” Hopkinson told the committee.
Further questioned on whether the excitement led to the breach of the laws by Chairman of the PAC, Irfaan Ali, he responded: “yes sir.”
The Auditor General’s report of 2016 found that the region used $1.5M from its current budget to construct a chain-link fence at the Mashabo Primary School. When questioned on February 19, the REO said he was not sure whether the practice was continued in 2017.
Following the disclosure, a special audit was ordered.
The audit, which was circulated on Monday, found that this practice continued in 2017 for six projects but it was noted that “all current projects executed by the RDC in 2017 could not be examined and location constraints, and as such, there may have been other instances where capital projects were completed using the 2017 current budgetary allocations.”
Out of the six contracts, the audit found the Procurement Act was breached in the award of five.
It was also discovered that monies remaining at the end of the year was not returned to the consolidated fund as is required by the Fiscal Management and Accountability act.
At the time of the physical verification, the regional administration still had in its possession five cheques totaling $16,997,021.
The PAC Chairman pointed out that this is also “another major breach.”
It was found that payments were also certified for incomplete works.
Additionally, $330,800 was overpaid on a contract for the construction of a fence at Unity park.
The REO was asked whether he was aware that his actions are in contravention of the law and he answered in the affirmative but then sought to change that by noting that he didn’t know at the time.
The Finance Secretary, Dr. Hector Butts explained that the head of the budget agency is the REO, who should have gotten permission from the Minister to utilize the monies the way he did. He told the committee that the report and the responses will be taken to the Finance Ministry where they will be reviewed and a way forward will be decided.
Following the review of the audit report and the region’s response, the PAC will continue its scrutiny at a later date.