Monday, August 10, 2009

Burrowes, Lall, City Hall and Hypocrisy: Guyana’s Auditor-General Report for 2006

Context: This is a rework of a similar article appearing in the Kaieteur News on August 3, 2009 ( )

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article "Burrowes city probe finds widespread financial irregularities " (SN August 1, 2009) and would be grateful for the opportunity to comment. Even though the article is chock full of innuendo and noticeably bereft of money-sum detail, I again sense that the time may well have been reached when the best among us should speak out!

We should immediately note the stunning hypocrisy that Minister Lall's comments in the above article represent.

For the first time we actually have a Minister's comments about what SHOULD follow an indictment of any agency by the Auditor-General. Lall's candour is welcome. The implications are enormous.

Hopefully, a national conversation on the phenomenon will also be facilitated through the article: "Greed, Genocide ... and now "Green": Corruption and Underdevelopment in Guyana" ( )

Some issues arising from the SN-article above:

1. Why was a Commissioner necessary after the detail of the Auditor-General's indictment? Unless Burrowes was being used as a political football to intimidate non-government-friendly municipalities in the run-up to local-government elections, it follows that the Minister's comments signal that a Commission(er) is going to be appointed to investigate every Ministry/Department similarly indicted by the Auditor-General's report. There is no shortage of candidates in that regard!

But is this a realistic expectation in the face of smothering hypocrisy by the Bharat-Jagdeo government in Guyana, given what is by now seen throughout the Caribbean as a complete failure in leadership and credibility? With almost every passing day, a Minister in that grouping distinguishes himself/herself with arrogance, insincerity and/or corruption that is “ruinous to the state”. The latest laughable instalment is the decision to “institutionalize” polygraph testing in the Public Service … while excluding every cabinet functionary from such scrutiny. Since no credible organization (we have suggested Interpol and the FBI) is effecting these polygraphs, the government may have found another way to rid itself of ‘undesirable” professionals who dare to oppose them! No appeals are possible, or recourse to the court!

2. Will Commissioner Burrowes, considering the “excellent” job that Minister Lall says he did at City Hall, now turn his attention to explaining with similar efficiency why the GPHC (Guyana Public Hospital Corporation), which is now a separate entity from his (Burrowes’) employer the Ministry of Health, continued to use that Ministry’s cabinet approval (funds) to purchase drugs and medical supplies from specialized agencies both local and overseas, and why $608.4 MILLION of Ministry funds was spent on medical supplies which the GPHC cannot account for?

Or why the Minister of Health (suddenly) cannot be polygraphed even though he was the last one to leave the Ministry of Health before it was gutted by fire recently?

3. Would Commissioner Burrowes offer his professional opinion on the Minister’s comment that “ … one of the ways to ensure financial efficiency was to have strict adherence to the annual budgets…” and analyze this against the fact that the Auditor-General has accused that same Minister’s cabinet of presiding over “political gifts” to Ministries, Departments and Regions that resulted in “… the miscellaneous receipts of $2.053 BILLION at December 31, 2006 being understated by an undetermined amount...” That same Auditor-General would have advised Minister Lall and Commissioner Burrowes, courtesy of his 2006-report, that his cabinet has not seen fit to transfer the sum of $7.190 BILLION, representing balances held in 13 special accounts, to the Consolidated Fund. Who is accessing, and utilizing, these accounts?

It gets worse. According to the KN-synopsis on the AG’s report, “ … the Contingencies Fund continued to be abused, with amounts drawn from the Fund being utilised to satisfy expenditure that did not meet the eligibility criteria as defined in the Act …

4. Finally, that same Auditor-General would have advised Minister Lall and his cabinet that, relative to "… strict adherence to the annual budgets …", the Bharat Jagdeo government would have elicited the following comment: "...the old Consolidated Fund bank account was overdrawn by $46.906 BILLION at 31 December 2006 ..."

If Commissioner Burrowes or Minister Lall cannot, or are instructed not to, respond to these and other anomalies relating to their functions as public servants, then they need to be reminded that: “…The Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 (FMA Act) provides for the regulation of the preparation and execution of the annual budget, the receipt, control and disbursement of public monies, and the accounting for public monies, and is the most vital legislation governing the transparent and efficient management of the finances of Guyana….”. In other words, Mr. Burrowes and Mr Lall must now be very proud men … or very confused ones! They both are members of institutions that are in flagrant violation of the Act!

We are presiding over a crisis in leadership and credibility in Guyana … and a stunning hypocrisy evident in the disdain for the welfare of entire segments of the population! An entire social policy is apparently being formulated on the nebulous framework of "keeping certain people in their places"…whatever the social cost, and however biased the machinery. As a policy initiative, this borders on lunacy, or, if not that, the deliberate orchestration of national discontent and resentment. To what end?

Quite unlike Burrowes' self-serving journey into City Hall intrigue, the Auditor-General’s report for 2006 in the main gave us an insight into the " … widespread financial irregularities …" perpetuated by Guyana's government ... but will anything come out of it? The only clear thing transmitted by Minister Lall’s comments is that every municipality in the " … local government system …" NOT supporting the government will be targeted by erstwhile "Commissioners" ... while those toeing the line will be left unscathed.

This is the definition of hypocrisy!

Yours faithfully
Roger Williams
August 3, 2009