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Parliament should empower PAC to impose sanctions – Sharma

By on January 12, 2020

first_imgIn light of the investigation launched into the school feeding programme, Auditor General Deodat Sharma is recommending adjustments be made to the Standing Orders of the National Assembly to allow the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to enforce the law.In light of the investigation launched into the school feeding programme, Auditor General Deodat Sharma is recommending adjustments be made to the Standing Orders of the National Assembly to allow the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to enforce the law.He made this recommendation on the sidelines of the handing over of the 2016 Audit Report on the Public Accounts of Guyana and a copy of the performance report on the new access road to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).“The Public Accounts Committee has finished examining the 2015 AG report. So they are waiting on the 2016. But I think the problem they are having is: can the Public Accounts Committee mete out disciplinary action?” he asked.According to the Standing Orders, the answer is ‘no’, and as such, the AG is recommending that there be an amendment of the Standing Orders to empower the PAC to impose sanctions.One of the PAC’s main functions is examining the audited accounts in the Auditor General’s Report, which would show the appropriation of sums granted by the National Assembly to meet public expenditure. The PAC also exercises general supervision over the functioning of the Auditor General, in accordance with the Rules, Policies and Procedures Manual.The Committee’s powers are enshrined in the Legislative Bodies (Evidence) Act, Chapter 1:08, which allows for the PAC to summon witnesses to give evidence and/or provide it with documents. It also can impose penalties for non-compliance, including not answering questions fully or satisfactorily. These penalties, if convicted, include fines and imprisonment. In addition to its Chairman, Irfaan Ali, its members include Members of Parliament Bishop Juan Edghill, Charrandass Persaud, Nigel Dharamlall, Pauline Sukhai, Volda Lawrence, Jermaine Figueira and Valarie Patterson.School Feeding ProgrammeThe Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the education sector, which was completed earlier this year, had recommended that an investigation be launched into the school feeding programme to ensure Government was getting value for money.Following this recommendation, state auditors had embarked on an investigation targeting the programme. They had reportedly found major “spending” inconsistencies plaguing the programme in two remote villages in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) during the period 2016/2017.Notwithstanding the lofty ideals of the programme, coordinators in the red-flagged region have reportedly been abusing the responsibility and power vested in them.The particular scrutiny that was brought to bear into the expenditures for each meal revealed that costs were inflated. This had raised further queries as to whether the correct procurement procedures were followed during the awarding of the contracts.Some $1.3 billion and $1.9 billion were injected into the programme in the years 2016 and 2017 respectively. It was set up in all 10 administrative regions. It was the previous administration that had started the National School Feeding Programme in February 2010.Even as state auditors were probing the allegations of fraud in the programme, things had progressed to the point where the Guyana Police Force had to be called in and an official report made.The National School Feeding Programme targets all nursery and primary school students in Grades One and Two. The school feeding programme was implemented in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and 10 and Georgetown. Regions 7, 8 and 9 are treated separately. The programme consists of biscuits and juices.last_img read more

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