Regional Engineer for Region One, Rawle Boyer was among several regional officials placed under heavy scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at this week’s statutory meeting over alleged shady and unethical payment practices under the former coalition government.
During an inquisition into the 2018 Auditor General’s report, it was found that under a $14.9 million laboratory project at the Pakera/Matthew’s Ridge District Hospital, Region One, cheques were written for incomplete works and contractors were also overpaid. According to the Auditor General’s report, as of December 31, 2018, $13.4 million was paid to the contractor, which is a majority of the overall sum. To make matters worse, a cheque valued at $4.7 million was prepared and held for the contractor even though no performance security/ bond was seen for the contract.
The committee further revealed that physical verification of the project was done months after the project’s January 23, 2019 deadlines and the project was incomplete as no materials were on site and the works appeared to be abandoned. Yet still, payments were approved and processed by the Regional Democratic Council.
When called on to answer the accusations, Boyer admitted that the $4.7 million cheque was prepared though works had not yet been completed. He also claimed that the contractor did not request the mobilisation payment usually paid at the startup of work, so he was eventually given the mobilisation advance plus the first partial payment when it was due.
Committee Member and Opposition Member of Parliament, Ganesh Mahipaul chimed in to note that, “Too many overpayments are coming before the Public Accounts Committee and we have established every time that the failure is on the part of the engineers failing to do what they are employed to do.”
The Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill added to Mahipaul’s comments, noting, “If this committee would I agree I would ask that this officer has a sit down with the FS (Finance Secretary), the Auditor General, and the Accounting General to ensure that he is fully aufait of what is required of him and the various pieces of legislation that governs his tenure.” According to Edghill, these officers need training to handle state finances better and his suggestion was accepted by PAC Chairman, Jermaine Figueira.
The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira was adamant in noting that engineers cannot just sign for cheques to be cut if works are not completed and the engineer seems to have not recognised that he violated procurement rules.