…unprepared to answer questions about regionThe inability of Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) officials to answer Public Accounts Committee (PAC) questions regarding issues raised in the Auditor General’s Report has seen them ultimately being asked to leave the chambers.At the sitting, chaired by Member of Parliament Pauline Sukhai in the absence of Chairman Irfaan Ali, Regional Executive Officer (REO) Kerwin Warde wasPerforming the duties of PAC Chairperson was MP Pauline Sukhaiquestioned on the region’s procurement of drugs through inter- departmental warrants (IDWs). Warde could not even provide definitive details on the reconciliation from the Materials Management Unit (MMU) of the Public Health Ministry, as recommended by Auditor General Deodat Sharma in his 2016 report.“The 2016 budget was one of those early budgets. What caused you to only send an inter-departmental warrant in the sum of $48 million to the Ministry of Public Health for the supply of drugs and medical supplies?” PAC member Nigel Dharamlall asked.In response, Warde indicated that he could not answer that question. At this point Sukhai upbraided the REO, noting that, on appearing before the committee, he had a duty to come prepared to answer whatever questions are put to him.Describing Warde’s statement as unacceptable, Sukhai asked him to confer with his supporting staff to get the information. But even that failed to bring any results, resulting in PAC Member and Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, getting involved.REO Kerwin Warde“I know that the (former) REO (Karl Parker) was in the region for a very long time. So why is it that you’re before the PAC without the answers?” she asked. When Warde admitted that he was ill-prepared, Lawrence suggested the officials be sent away until they could provide answers.“This is what I feared when the REO began answering questions. It appears he either doesn’t want to be helpful or he didn’t have the time to go through (the documents). I could immediately sense a lack of preparation. From the first question to where we are now, we have not had any clear-cut responses. I would want to recommend we terminate your session until you come prepared,” Sukhai said.Audit reportAccording to the 2016 report, a sum of $73.871 million was budgeted for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies under the Health Services Programme for 2016. It stated that amounts totalling $63.871 million were expended as at December 31, 2016.“Included in the amount of $63.871 million are two inter-departmental warrants (IDW) valued $58 million (and) issued in August and November 2016 in the sums of $48 million and $10 million respectively to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to purchase drugs and medical supplies on behalf of the Regional Administration. With respect to the warrant of $48 million, the Regional Administration received a financial return indicating that the full amount was expended. However, although drugs and medical supplies were received by the Regional Administration, the cost was not stated on the documentation that accompanied the deliveries”, the report detailed.“As a result, it could not be determined whether the full value was received for the sum warranted to MoPH. 902. With respect to the warrant of $10 million, the Regional Administration received a ‘nil’ financial return indicating that the amount was unexpended, as such, the Appropriation Account was credited with the unspent amount of $10 million.”The Audit Office had recommended that the Regional Administration put systems in place to reconcile supplies received by the respective health facilities with the drugs’ list initially submitted. It had also advised that the region obtain the cost of the drugs and medical supplies from the MoPH, so as to reconcile the value of the drugs and medical supplies received with that of the sum warranted to the Ministry.