5 years later: no charges, known outcome of police probe into school feeding fraud under APNU+AFC
Accountant General (AG) Jennifer Chapman on Monday suggested that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development write to the Police Commissioner (ag) for an update on an investigation launched over four years ago into school feeding fraud in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni).
Up to Monday, culpable officials were yet to be charged with no collusion proven because of the absence of a police report.
It came as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) examined the Auditor General’s 2017 report where amounts totalling $258 million were allocated for dietary supplies in Region Eight under the previous APNU+AFC government.
At the end of December 31, 2017, some $231 million were expended but a special investigation on the purchases of dietary supplies was done by the Audit Office of Guyana on the instructions of the Ministry of Communities at the time.
As early as 2016, the audit report had highlighted discrepancies in the payment of 60 transactions totalling some $33.6 million. These payments were related to purchases of dietary supplies for the Kato school feeding programme.
On Monday, Chapman said after the special audit and report were completed, the matter was handed over to the police for an investigation to be conducted.
Current Permanent Secretary Prema Ramanah-Roopnarine and senior members of the AG chambers could not say what the outcome of that investigation is.
What is a known consensus is that no charges were instituted.
Auditors had found that a supplier had encashed cheques totalling millions but there was no evidence of the items being entered into the Goods Received ledger, nor any evidence of the Regional Tender Board’s approvals.
The auditors, in their investigation, also found that items were being purchased at a higher price than that offered by other suppliers that the Region usually procures its items from.
Chapman previously described this as a “total breach” of the regional financial system back in November 2021 when PAC was examining the 2016 report.
Months later, and with the 2017 report being examined, the special investigation that was also warranted then to investigate what transpired with the Region’s spending remains hanging.
From the special audit, records from the Kato School showed that they received supplies valued at only $16.2 million while receiving 18 payments.
Regional Executive Officer for Region Eight, Peter Ramotar, informed the committee that he will also follow up with the police on this matter.