Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence on Thursday said all the spending thus far to handle the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Guyana is known to the Accountant General of the Ministry of Finance and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
“…but whatever would have been done, is laid at the Accountant General, it’s at the Ministry of Finance, the NPTAB and so and so,” Lawerence told reporters after the commissioning of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.
The incumbent APNU+AFC Government which remains in office five months after the March 2 General and Regional Elections without a national budget for 2020.
The administration is allowed to spend public funds on emergency situations. Each Ministry or agency is also given 1/12 of its previous year’s expenditure until a new budget is approved.
Asked if the Ministry of Public Health has sufficient funds to sustain itself until the winner of the election is declared and a new budget presented, the Minister said, “there is a 1/12th and this is an emergency.”
The emergency she referred to is the Centre which will begin functioning as the COVID-19 hospital in the coming weeks once the Government sources staff and equipment.
The Government has not disclosed the details of funding or how contracts were awarded to convert the former Ocean View Hotel to the COVID-19 hospital.
The Auditor-General Office has commenced its investigations into the spending of the Government on COVID-19 related projects including the procurement process for the hospital.
The Minister confirmed that the office of the Auditor-General has contacted her Permanent Secretary Colette Adams.
Adams is the head of the budget agency.
“I know last week the Permanent Secretary did indicate that auditors from the Auditor General [Office] did visit to begin audit on COVID-19.”
The Auditor-General Deodat Sharma told Stabroek News last weekend that he is unaware of the source of the funding.
“We are embarking on a COVID-19 audit as I am trying to determine where the money came from and how it was spent and if that spending was transparent,” Sharma said in an interview with the Stabroek News.
He further noted that the Audit Office is at the interviewing stage and would have spoken to several persons at the Ministry of Health.
Through the Civil Defense Commission (CDC), the Government also started an initiative to provide vouchers valued at $32,000 to less fortunate households to purchase groceries.
Through the Small Business Bureau, owners of small businesses have also received relief grants.