Harbour Bridge, other agencies knew buying gifts was prohibited by law
Budget agencies, including the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation, were well aware that the purchasing of gifts and merchandise, was not allowed under the country’s financial laws and were in fact told not to do so.
A budget circular dated June 28, 2018 and another circular from the Ministry of Finance on December 17, 2018, made this clear.
But despite the written caution against the act, which included clear guidelines against the usage of public funds for the purchasing of gifts for staff, several agencies under the Ministry of Public Infrastructure at the time still went ahead and purchased expensive jewelry and other items as gifts for former Ministers David Patterson and Annette Ferguson.
The Ministry of Finance circular, signed by Finance Secretary Michael Joseph, made reference to a budget circular which stated that “gifts and merchandise related to occasion specific or ministry-specific paraphernalia and gifts must be reduced.”
This was in June 2018.
The second circular sent out by the Ministry of Finance six months later said that although the budget circular was sent out it was brought to the Ministry of Finance’s attention that several budget agencies were proposing to present monetary vouchers and other gifts to staff for the holidays by utilizing public funds.
That circular reminded that agencies that such acts were “not permitted” under the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA).
“There shall be no expenditure of public monies except in accordance with article 217 of the Constitution,” the circular noted, citing Section 16 of FMAA states.
The circular also noted that purchasing of gifts was also unbudgeted and not approved.
“As such, given that the aforementioned activities, for this or any other holiday, have never received the approval of the Ministry of Finance, nor have they been presented for consideration or appropriation by National Assembly, any related payment by any (Head of Budget Agency) is prohibited,” the circular of December 17, 2018 stated.
But despite receiving clear instruction that the act was prohibited, several agencies still purchased gifts.
According to information released by Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill, Patterson, during his tenure as Minister of Public Infrastructure, received from Agencies under his control, gifts and personal items totaling $2.646M.
In May 2020 gifts were purchased for the Minister’s birthday by the Maritime Administration Department to the tune of $704,292.
On the same date, there was another gift purchased for $387,486.
On 4th May, 2017 a gift was purchased for the Minister by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), another agency that fell under his purview. That gift was purchased in the sum of $117,200 from King’s Jewelry and had Patterson’s initials ‘DP’ engraved.
May 3rd 2018 and May 4th, 2018 two purchases were made and the voucher said payment for gifts for Minister Patterson’s birthday to the tune of $300,000.
There is a letter signed to the Maritime Administration on May 3rd, for the approval of the gifts.
The Transport and Harbours Department also purchased gifts for Patterson on May 4th, 2017 in the sum of $76,818. On May 6th, 2020 he received another gift for $54,720 and the receipts are there to prove.
The Cheddi Jagan International Airport on the 7th May 2018 made a purchase for a cross pen for $25,000 which is in moderation.
Edghill claimed that the two former Ministers took gross advantage of their position and severely abused the treasury of the Demerara Harbour Bridge and other agencies between June 2015 and July 2016. The items purchased for the Ministers include:
– Apple Ipad air $213,000
– Dell laptops (2)
– Television set
– Cocktail tables
– Book Shelf
– Samsung Galaxy phone valued at $203,000
– Vacuum Cleaner
– King bed set
– Chest of Drawers