Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Consolidated Fund
(Aired 12 September 2001)

       This is our country, all of us are shareholders in it, once you are Guyanese you own a part of it, we have elections every 5 years to decide who will manage it for us. But WE own it. The people we vote for to run it for us are answerable to us.  So regardless of who we vote for, those of us who happen to be in the majority must always remember that we are voting for a group of people who will manage it for us, and we must watch them CAREFULLY, since the way they manage it will ultimately impact on us all.

    For the purpose of this commentary, let us compare our country to a large business. This business has shareholders, you and me, and it has as our managers, the government, who are responsible to us to run our business in the interest of its people, all of us, regardless of race, regardless of who we voted for, to give us prosperity, dividends, profits etc. and remembering always that over 93% of all the current operating revenue of this company is paid for with our taxes, customs and other duties, sugar and rice levies, etc. if our business is run badly then we will have to pay even more.

     All companies have a chief executive officer, and departmental managers, in our company our CEO is the President and our managers are our Permanent Secretaries and our Ministers.

   Now please remember that, whoever happens to be in government, managing us, we are all equal shareholders in this company, regardless of how much property we own personally, so even the richest of us don't OWN more of this country than any of its other citizens, as poor as they might be. They may own more property within it, but they don't own more OF it. 

   Like any business our company is required to be audited once per year. The person who does this for us is Mr. Anand Goolsarran, our Auditor General. We are lucky ladies and gentlemen since Mr. Goolsaran over the years has done an excellent job for us, despite many obstacles, he has reported honestly and criticised fearlessly whenever he sees any irregularity in the running of our business, this country, our company. 

     Unfortunately, the shareholders of this company, you and me, have not given Mr. Goolsaran the kind of support he needs to make the managers of our company comply with even the most fundamental accounting procedures required to ensure that our business is run properly.

    In November 2000 Mr. Goolsaran presented to us, the shareholders of this company, the accounts for the year 1999.

     The essentials of the audited report of our government is supposed to be tabled in our parliament and discussed there. It was done on the May 31st   2001, Here are a few direct quotes of Mr. Goolsarran's audit; "it should be again emphasised that this report should not be relied upon to reflect the results of a comprehensive review of the fiscal operation of the government. While such a review is desirable, and I believe is the intention of the law, because of the DEPLEATING staff situation in the AUDIT office, only a selective approach could have been adopted in the comprehensiveness of such a review" and because of major lapses especially in the consolidated fund Goolsaran says that "I am unable to form an opinion whether they properly present their respective state of affairs as at 31st December 1999"

     Why is our Audit department so depleted of staff by over 40% that its effectiveness is reduced to the extent that we, the shareholders of this company, don't know exactly how our business is doing?

   This company has as the source of all of its financing what is called the Consolidated Fund, our main account, this is established by article 216 of our Constitution and into which all revenues are paid, and, out of which all expenditures are met.

    Here are Mr. Goolsaran's findings, and I quote "despite the consolidated fund being the single most important account of the government, the bank account was not properly reconciled since February 1988!!  This unsatisfactory feature [he says] has been highlighted by him before in many previous audits and he tells us "failure to do so, can lead to the perpetration of serious irregularities without detection"  

    That the audit was several months overdue, was according to Goolsaran due to the late submission of almost all departments including the statement of assets and liabilities of the Government which was submitted in November 2000 instead of the statutory date of April 2000.

    The Accountant General of this country has also come under heavy fire in the 1999 accounts; she is the main accountant in our company, who handles our revenue and our expenses in a manner prescribed by the law, on our behalf, the shareholders of the company. 

    What is the situation with our main account? "an examination of the Cash Book of the consolidated fund kept by the accountant General revealed that sums totaling 63.124 BILLION dollars were received and deposited in the consolidated account but only 51.958 Billion were reported in the financial statements. A difference of 11.166 BILLION, the same situation exists with payments made FROM the Consolidated Fund, there is a 14 BILLION dollar discrepancy between what was reported as paid out and what was actually paid out, an examination by Goolsaran showed that this was not necessarily fraudulent but incompetence. But 6 billion remains unexplained.

   Ladies and gentlemen I can spend three days telling you about the ridiculous way our company is run, which would give you ague, the numerous breaches of tender board regulations, contract splitting, irregularities at the Home Affairs and Education Ministries etc, two whole pages of infractions, how the 40 sections of our government, the ministries, the departments and the 10 regions, have 842 bank accounts!!!  Most of which are overdrawn, and 567 are inactive but un-reconciled. Why should 40 departments have 842 accounts? 14 vehicles of the presidential secretariat cost 18.15 Million to be maintained and repaired in two years, three of these vehicles PFF 3383, PDD 6819 and GDD 6696 all presidential Guards vehicles, cost this nation over 9 million between 1988 and 1999 to maintain. These are cars people, not helicopters.

   Microbiological equipment purchased for PHG since 1997 has not been seen to date, the ministry of health bought 5- 4x4 vehicles for 14.289 million without offering them for tender, equipment bought since 1998 for our public hospital was not installed up to 1999, I could be wrong but a liquid chromatograph bought in 1998 was not installed and in 1999 we bought another one which has also not been installed. There is also gross abuse of the Contingency Fund, the list is endless.

   As an illustration of what this audit is like I asked my wife Jewel to open the audited accounts of this country at any page, randomly, she did, and it was page 329, the first major head on that page is, "Essequibo Magisterial District" where the following is recorded by Goolsaran "the old salaries Bank account No. 337 was overdrawn by 603,000 dollars at 31st December 1999. The overdraft should be investigated and steps taken to close the account. The present bank account #3107 was also not reconciled, since it was established in JUNE 1996". Ladies and gentlemen you cannot open this entire audit of over 1000 pages, at any page, without coming to the realisation that we are running our company, this country, as if it were a salt goods shop.

      Fellow Guyanese I have this question, if we have an opposition in parliament, how come, there was not a huge furore in the media when this audit was brought to their attention, is it possible that our opposition's shadow minister of finance is not as vigilant and as vibrant as he should be, perhaps so, and the media, me and the Evening News included, how come this audit, was available about a month after it was presented in Parliament in June 2001, and no one has raised these gross accountability deficiencies in our company.

    In my own defense, I was in the US on holiday between the 28th June 2001, to 27th July 2001, just about the time that the audited accounts became available to the nation, What is your excuse? What is the Evening News' excuse? Not to mention the other media?  Sadly, unless and until we start choosing the managers for our company because of the content of their brain, and not the colour of their skin, this will continue.