Reg. 5 received $154M worth of drugs, only paid $60M

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Regional officials of the Mahaica/Berbice District were on Monday morning unable explain how it received $154 million worth of drugs in 2016 when only $60 million was expended.

The inability of the officials to answer certain questions and their failure to submit requested information to the Auditor General’s Office prompted Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Irfaan Ali to send the team away for a second time.

Ali, who arrived at the meeting an hour late and had to briefed by PAC members on what transpired, also asked that the Finance Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Dr Hector Butts to launch an investigation into the affairs of Region Five and then take the necessary actions under the laws.

Prior to announcing this decision, the PAC Chairman cited the Laws of Guyana where it outlines that it is an offence to obstruct the Auditor General in the exercise of his power.

“You were sent away to get the information to us … we are of the view that you have not made any attempt to correct your ways or to be prepared for us,” Ali stated.

Chairman Irfaan Ali being briefed by PAC Members on what transpired prior to his arrival at the meeting

Regional Executive Officer (REO) Ovid Morrison disagreed with the decision of the PAC Chairman and insisted that he did submit the requested information. Morrison said he will not comment on whether he thinks the decision was fair as he is suspicious that Ali was not accurately briefed on the events which had unfolded.

Parliamentarian Juan Edghill, who chaired the session in Ali’s absence, was visibly frustrated that the regional officials could not explain how it received approximately $94 million in excess drugs from the Ministry of Public Health’s Materials Management Unit (MMU).

Edghill likened the situation to the purchasing of mangoes, explaining that “if I give somebody money to buy ten mangoes based upon the price mangoes are selling and they bring me 50 mangoes, and I have change, I need to ask a question, “how did you do this?”

At one point, the REO said it is the responsibility of the Ministry to explain why excess drugs and medical supplies were delivered.

The Regional Health Officer then explained that the value of drugs received was probably inflated because the Ministry recorded 2018 prices instead of 2016 prices.

Edghill along with other PAC Members expressed alarm over this revelation.

The Finance Secretary explained that the Region should have, upon receipt of the excess drugs, reconciled with the MMU right away.

The session with the Region Five team concluded with the PAC being unable to figure out how the Region spent only $60 million and received $154 million worth of drugs and medical supplies.

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