NCN scandal…Several questioned, special audit underway
A special audit has been ordered by the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) Board of Directors, following testimonies from several persons earlier this week.
According to officials, a special auditor is focusing on several documentations as these relate to payments from the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) Jingle and Song Competition.
The probe was triggered earlier this year by claims from NCN’s Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Sattaur that the entity raked in more than $500 M in revenues last year. The disclosures were made during debates in Parliament over an $80M subsidy to NCN by Government.
An upset opposition had accused NCN and the Government Information News Agency (GINA) of a reporting bias in favour of the government. The $80M subsidy was reduced to $1, leading to protests by both GINA and NCN.
Along with this startling disclosure, there were also questions about the operations of NCN after a number of complaints reached the board that cameramen and other production crew of that state-owned agency were not paid for work done in last year’s highly successful GT&T Jingle and Song Competition.
The board had started an investigation into reports of suspicious payments and two Fridays ago sent home the Programme Manager, Martin Goolsaran. Goolsaran was required to submit a report of his involvement in the competition and he admitted received cheques totaling $3.9M which were paid to him personally.
He also admitted depositing them into his personal bank account and making withdrawals to pay to HJTV. Goolsaran reportedly said that between September and December 2011, NCN committed to record and broadcast the show which was being held in various parts of the country.
However, NCN later determined it could not handle the job and decided to hire Hits and Jams Television (HJTV) to do the production.
Goolsaran claimed that the NCN’s CEO, Mohamed Sattaur, was fully aware of the deal and even approved it. Sattaur is still on the job despite calls for him to step aside. When it came time for payments to HJTV, Goolsarran claimed that GT&T issued cheques on two separate occasions in his name.
These were deposited to his account and cash to the tune of $3,930,000 was withdrawn and paid over to HJTV on two separate occasions.
Kaieteur News was told last week that GT&T has started its own checks to determine how Goolsaran could have been paid personally since he never in the first place had the authority to encumber NCN without being the CEO. In short he created a debt for the company.
There have been accusations of widespread wrongdoing and little accountability with even staffers claiming deliberate flouting of controls.
There were questions over the purchase of a multi-million-dollar Outside Broadcast vehicle, which is presently lying unused in the compound following its acquisition several months ago. It is down for the want of several important components.
According to one source, an independent investigation will also reveal that the company may have purchased reconditioned cameras instead of brand new ones as documented in their budgetary requests.
A few years ago Sattaur, who is also the administrator of a number of the ruling PPP’s entities including Red House and Heritage House, was suspended by the NCN board of directors headed by Dr. Prem Misir following claims of insubordination.
However, he was reinstated by the then President Bharrat Jagdeo who had intervened in the matter. There have been reports of senior officials of NCN issuing invoices in their personal names to companies and individuals for payments. It is believed these moneys were stolen.
Earlier last week, a senior official at the center of the investigations reportedly had to return a quantity of items (including a computer) belonging to NCN.
According to an official close to the investigations, as of now, the probe by the board is focusing on the complaint of the GT&T payment but could be expanded.