Georgetown, GINA, July 30, 2015
Anomalies and inconsistencies are fraught in the Audit Office’s report for the Demerara Harbour Bridge, for the fiscal year that ended on the December 31, 2010. From the onset, the report shows an understatement of $58,982,795 for the start of the fiscal year 2010, that is there was a disparity in the figure brought forward. The actual figures recorded at the end of 2009 show an amount of $320,180,033, but the opening one for January 2010 is stated as $261,197,238. The Office also cited overstated Inventories by $4,163,541, and so for the period ending December 31, 2010, the total difference amounted to a shortfall of $54,819,254.
During recent times, it was widely felt that the previous administration had become clouded in corruption and secrecy where managing the DHBC was concerned, and at one juncture, the DHBC administration had to spend in excess of $337 million, replacing major components on the structure. However, all of the spending was shrouded in private and unannounced contracts, lending credence to the belief that operations were not being conducted in an ethical, legal and moral manner.
One highlight of the report shows gross mismanagement of the entity as ‘deck plates were not subjected to a year-end inventory, and could not, since they were not stored in order of sizes, but lumped together. In this said category, it was noted that these plates were deteriorating, because they were left exposed to weather elements” and so were not part of the overall assessment, which in all likelihood would have reflected a larger shortfall.
According to the report, another flagrant malpractice was that the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company (DHBC) never sought the approval of the Ministry of Finance for the sale of unserviceable deck plates, totalling $3,531,400, this being reflected as ‘Other Revenue’ in the Financial Statements. This, according to the Audit Office, constitutes a breach in the established financial procedures as required by the Stores Regulation of 1993.
As regards the sensitive and controversial area of contractual works, some six contracts, under Goods and Services, totalling $32,597,250 were awarded by the Ministerial Tender Board of the Ministry of Public Works, and which instead should have been under the aegis of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
In the category of Company Property, vehicle registration numbers were not listed in the Fixed Asset Register, and in fact, of the entity’s fleet of 16 vehicles, only a paltry two were traceable to the Fixed Asset Register, leaving a significant 14 unaccounted for. This, the report points out “hindered the accuracy, validity and completeness for the value of vehicles, totalling $7.410 M, shown as Non-Current Assets in the Financial Statement.
In terms of recommendations from the Audit Office, the suggestion is that the DHBC implement the proper control measures over the management of the entity, that is implement segregation of duties; institute supervisory control measures over issuance of manual receipts and void tickets; and ensure measures be in place for strict compliance with the requirements of Stores Regulation 1993.
The Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) is a landmark and the main transportation link between the East and West banks of the Demerara River. It is operated by the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation, a government corporation.
National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) had controversially taken it over when it went to tender. The tenders were returned, but steeped in mystery and ever since, there has been the suspicion that many things untoward were being done at the DHBC.