An luxury at the taxpayers’ expense
MARCH 1, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
Everyone is aware that Mr Shaik Baksh is no longer a Minister of Government nor is he serving the Government in an Advisory capacity and still has two state vehicles in his possession. These vehicles are being maintained at the expense of the taxpayers of this country.
Mr Baksh drives an open back pick-up PLL 9043 while his son drives a grey Prado PKK 7000. It is instructive to note that the current Minister of Education is without a State vehicle as is the custom and practice.
The good lady has to use a vehicle from her Ministry’s pool while Baksh is having fun. Can the Head of the Presidential Secretariat cause this situation to be put right. Shame on you Baksh, you have had enough from us Tax Payers.
Teddy L Ross
Dealer blows lid on Education Ministry’s book scam…Billions spent on outdated text books
FEBRUARY 26, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
– manipulates procurement procedures
“You have to understand that there is no clear-cut text book policy in Guyana. Many of the books being ordered…there is no way to determine whether they are relevant to the curriculum or not. So books are being ordered and sometimes even the teachers don’t want them.”
A local book dealer is calling on President Donald Ramotar to immediately launch an investigation
Former Minister of Education Shaik Baksh
into the system of text book ordering. He is claiming that there are widespread irregularities and fraud involved in the process.
According to Bholan Boodhoo, owner of the Horizon Bookshop in Alberttown, and a long time dealer of text books, the procurement system is deliberately being manipulated so that specific companies are granted the contract.
The Auditor General’s report covering government accounts of 2010, excerpts of which were published in this newspaper last Sunday, found instances in which hundreds of millions of dollars were written up in cheques, months before the contracts were awarded.
It not only signaled that there were serious irregularities but also that there was the shocking possibility that the procurement process in Guyana through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board may have been compromised.
The report also suggested that books were also being partially delivered.
Kaieteur News was told that people high up in the Ministry of Education and specific dealers awarded the contracts, deliberately delivered short and would split the proceeds.
Text books dealing in Guyana is a billion dollar business.
According to Boodhoo, the way the procurement system is being run in Guyana is hugely unfair to other dealers and may even threaten the level of education in the country.
“You have to understand that there is no clear-cut text book policy in Guyana. For many of the books being ordered…there is no way to determine whether they are relevant to the curriculum. So books are being ordered and sometimes even the teachers don’t want them. They are distributed in the schools and left in the storeroom.”
Another major issue over the ordering of text books is that a large percentage ordered are called infringed copies– photocopies. A business on West Coast Demerara (name given) is the main supplier of photocopied text books.
“This is a clear violation of several regional and international laws. It saves money but how could a ministry and government by extension, sanction an illegality? We have legitimate book dealers in Guyana who are answerable to their companies.
Text book dealer, Bholan Boodhoo
“We have books that we are scared to even put on shelves because they are being bought and then photocopied or infringed and then resold,” the businessman said.
Many of the contracts awarded are through sole sourcing procurement procedures, meaning that the Ministry has already decided which company will get the contract.
“This is clearly a breach of what sole tendering is all about. For one company to be eligible as a sole tender, the ministry will have to show that it can’t buy from anywhere else and the orders must be with all the relevant specifications included.
“This may be true if you are ordering a Wartsila engine or Caterpillar set…then you will have to go to the company that makes them. In the Guyana case, only some books could be ordered through sole sourcing…not all as is being done,” Boodhoo stressed.
However, in many cases, the contracts are just being awarded as sole sourcing without evidence being presented that the books are not available elsewhere.
And how is it being done?
“On the approval granted by the Cabinet, the list will more than likely have general descriptions of texts but no names of the books wanted. This is another way in which legitimate dealers are being shafted because they don’t have a clear idea of what is needed.”
In many cases, the Ministry of Education just does not advertise for the books.
“In the absence of a Procurement Commission, it is hard to complain,” the dealer said.
That commission is the body which would have heard complaints being filed by aggrieved parties on alleged instances where government’s procurement processes were not followed. The commission, despite public clamouring, has not yet been established by the government.
“Many of the books being ordered are not revised and outdated.”
At least three businesses are now selling infringed copies of text books at a fraction of the costs. One is located in Water Street and another on Croal Street.
“Those infringed copies are of poor qualities and in black and white in most cases. In almost all the cases the businesses selling the books are not dealers or are just not authorized.”
Meanwhile, Kaieteur News was told that when text books are purchased, whether they are infringed or not, they are delivered to the Ministry of Education’s Book Distribution Unit.
The Auditor General report on the Ministry’s 2010 accounts found that in most cases, records of that unit did not match up with what was ordered. Insiders are saying records are deliberately not being provided to state auditors.
In most cases, the Book Distribution Unit is not provided or made aware of what was ordered from the supplier…only what is being delivered.
Further, even records being kept at the unit are poor and sources at the Education Ministry again say that this is deliberately so that in cases of checks, it will be hard to track instances of short delivery, among other fraudulent activities.
In the Auditor General’s report of the 2010 accounts, auditors found one instance where a massive $110M order was made for text books but two cheques for the amount were made months before the contract was awarded.
According to the report, the fact that the payments took place in the fourth and ninth months of 2011, confirms the use of a strategy to defeat the controls as set out in the government’s Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA), by the withdrawal of sums appropriated in one year and holding them for extended periods for spending in another year during the life of another Appropriation Act.
“It is even more disturbing that such a serious breach is aided and abetted by the Ministry of Finance, through a process in which stale dated cheques are extended for use at current dates. This was the case of the second cheque which was updated on June 9, 2011.”
In charge of the Ministry at the time was Minister Shaik Baksh, who was not included in the current Cabinet under new President Donald Ramotar. He was also embroiled in a questionable contract involving the delivery of computers to a number of schools.
In 2009, cheques were also written up days before the end of the year for book orders that would have been delivered in 2010, an occurrence that the state auditors found disturbing.
It was this same supplier who was given contracts in 2010 to the tune of $230M but cheques were drawn up in December 2009. There were several discrepancies also with those contracts including one that was “surprisingly” dated one year later on January 21, 2011.
According to the report, the Tender Board approval did not disclose details of the orders, including the book titles, authors, quantities or even costs.
On request, the Ministry of Education provided two contracts and three book lists that give details of the order.
“The Audit Office was unable to validate delivery on the orders, as the state of accounting at the Book Delivery Unit (BDU) made accounting for the books impractical. It should be noted that the BDU provided delivery invoices with supply details of several books. However, these invoices were not referenced to the related orders and did not include the prices of the books supplied.”
National Centre of Educational Resource Development (NCERD), an arm of the Ministry of Education, is the department that is reportedly in charge of ordering text books.
The parents of pupils of the Uitvlugt Primary School are calling on the relevant authorities to have the compound and its surroundings weeded to ensure their children’s safety. Priya ‘the manic’ Manickchand continues her legacy of failing the kids of Guyana. After many years as an utter failure running the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand appears to be on track to continue the same trend at the Ministry of Education. We are however confident that Manickchand will continue to do what she does best, cussing out the United States and International organizations that highlight the plight of Guyanese suffering under the PPP government.
We must also note that the previous Minister of Education Shaik ‘latrine‘ Baksh was not any better, and unfortunately for the kids, only time will tell which of these two lame ducks is more incompetent.
AD in Guyana Times, on the bright side at least this paper has low circulation
Buddy’s ad in the Caribbean Beat magazine
Pit latrines part of developing country syndrome, Sukhai says
By STABROEK STAFF
– ‘child-friendly infrastructure’ needed
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, says she “suspects” that some schools in Guyana still use pit latrines because the country is still developing economically and “still grappling with removing ourselves from the level of a developing country and moving towards a higher level… which is a challenge to the government.”
Speaking to Stabroek News on the issue, following the death last week of a nine-year-old girl after she fell into a pit latrine, Sukhai said placing child-friendly infrastructure in schools needed to be examined.
The issue of pit latrines has become a matter of public debate following the tragic death of Tenesha De Souza last Monday. The child fell into a pit latrine at the Santa Rosa Primary School at Moruca on her first day of school and subsequently died. Her parents and a number of individuals and organisations have since called for flush toilets to be installed at all schools. The parents have said that they did not want any other parent to endure the hurt they were forced to suffer, following the death of their eldest child and only daughter.
However, while these calls are being made, Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, has told Stabroek News that his ministry did not intend to phase-out the use of pit latrines in schools since they were internationally accepted as proper sanitary disposal. He had added though that maybe in another few years the issue would be addressed, but it would be a very expensive exercise.
Sukhai, while calling the death of De Souza a tragic and unfortunate one, said “we as a government” need to “examine further the preparing of child-friendly infrastructure particularly as it relates to education.
“We all consider it a tragedy in the case of Santa Rosa. Again, I would want to say it was very unfortunate. It may not be a prevalent incident, but it is … one too many. That is what I would say; we cannot say it doesn’t concern us,” Sukhai said.
She said that while her ministry was not entirely responsible for the infrastructure of schools, “I wouldn’t say it is not a concern to us… due to the fact that a child died in a pit latrine [we cannot] divorce ourselves from having any concern at all.”
She said the government, “may not be able to address the conversion of all pit latrines to flush toilets or what we call it – water closets, but definitely I think we would have to consider for the future, making more safer facilities available to our children.”
She added that this should not only apply to schools and children but also to institutions for differently-abled persons and the elderly.
“I think generally while we would still have to work and live with many communities using pit latrines, I am sure that our policy makers need to examine, for the future, how we [would] move from where we are. I suppose as Guyana is able to acquire more resources that we will be able to improve on it.”
Meanwhile, well-known Amerindian rights advocate, Guy Marco, commenting on the issue on Stabroek News’ website said the village council of Moruca “should stop the villagers from sending their children to school until workers from the Ministry of Education arrive there with at least one toilet bowl and other materials to begin working on the flushable toilet.” He said there was no excuse since Moruca was one of the locations that was “within reach easily.”
“If the government can spend so much millions of dollars to create an Amer-indian Village for Carifesta… And since the President [Bharrat Jagdeo) himself said that he would not hesitate if he had to do it again… Then Mr President we don’t want another village to be built but just buy us one toilet bowl, materials to build the septic tank and pay the workers,” Marco said.
He pointed out that two persons from Moruca have since been made Amerindian Affairs ministers and questioned why they “couldn’t negotiate with the government for at least two more flushable toilets?”
The school has two flush toilets. One is currently out of order, but they are only for teachers’ use.
Meanwhile, the parents of the child, Robin and Vanessa De Souza said they are still grappling with the tragedy. They lamented that they almost lost her eight years ago when she fell into a pond, resulting in the loss of her speech, and as such, it was hard to accept that she died when she fell into a pit latrine on her first day at school.
Publishers still mulling lawsuits over copied books
Book publishers who have had their products copied on a massive scale are hoping that the perpetrators will desist, thereby saving them the effort of having to pursue litigation.
Locally, the photocopying and sale of text books in particular has been a bugbear for overseas publishers, mostly from London, and they have sought legal advice on the matter.
Attorney Andrew Pollard of Hughes, Fields and Stoby told demwaves.com on Tuesday that the publishers have so far not instigated lawsuits but they have been advised that they would be within their rights should they do so.
“The publishers are still of the view that they’d expect the relevant agencies to do the right thing. We understand the government has purchased a substantial amount of these counterfeit text books,” Pollard said.
According to the attorney, the publishers have made their disappointment known and are hoping that the situation will be corrected. He added that while they have chosen not to go with litigation as yet, such a move will come without warning.
Efforts to contact education minister Shaik Baksh were unsuccessful.
Local bookstores have almost completely vanished with only one doing any particular business in the city, namely Austin’s Book Services.
In a brief comment to demwaves.com proprietor Lloyd Austin noted that the situation remained the same even as publishers sought to secure powers of attorney to advocate on their behalf. He said he believed the matter will hit the media should it ever come to a head.
Austin has in the past lamented the practice of copying and retailing the text books saying it has forced him to cut back significantly on the amount of books he imports.
Copied text books are currently available in schools across the country.