I have never knowingly misled the nation and have no intention to do so in the future
I write to offer the following clarification in relation to the recent article in the Guyana Times entitled “Goolsarran, Ram trying to mislead the nation again”. This article is a response to the interview I had with the Stabroek News and carried in last Monday’s edition of that newspaper.
1. Contrary to the caption of the article, I have never knowingly misled the nation and have no intention to do so in the future. It would be morally and ethically wrong for me to do so. I returned to Guyana in February last, hoping to lead a quiet life. But that was not to be, in that after two months of silence, I was thrust into the limelight after an initial interview with the Stabroek News. I was told that I still remain a public figure notwithstanding my retirement as Auditor General, and with my international experience I have much to offer to this country.
2. I agreed with this argument and I accepted requests to speak on matters within my expertise and area of competence. One such request was a symposium for Parliamentarians sponsored by the Alliance for Change. At the symposium, I made it clear that I am not a member of any political party and that if the PPP or the PNC requests me to do a similar speaking assignment, I would willingly do so. Stabroek News was also kind enough to offer me a weekly column entitled “Accountability Watch” in which I deal with current issues. In my weekly columns, I try to help the general public in obtaining a better understanding of the issue at hand.
3. I did mention that the Companies Act requires the external auditor of a company, be it state-owned or otherwise, to be a professionally qualified accountant and that the current acting Auditor General does not meet this requirement. This is a statement of fact and represents the truth. I did not want to mention the technical details of the relevant section of the Act (i.e. being a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana and the holder of a practising certificate from that Institute) since eligibility for becoming a member is an internationally recognised accounting qualification. With appropriate experience, one can apply for a practising certificate. My omission to mention that was neither deliberate nor malicious since my intention was to simplify matters for the general public.
4. The Companies Act was promulgated in 1991. I was appointed Auditor General in September 1990 and therefore it would not have been possible for me to obtain a practising certificate from a non-existent body. I was nevertheless professionally qualified since 1986. Having said that, I agree that Article 223 of the Constitution takes precedence in that once appointed, the Auditor General, as part of the audit of the public accounts, is responsible for auditing “the accounts of all bodies and entities in which the state has a controlling interest”. But Mr. Sharma has not been appointed Auditor General. He is acting as Auditor General. I hope the difference is appreciated.
5. There are precedents where an Auditor General is not a professionally qualified accountant but nevertheless mature, widely respected, highly qualified and experienced. An example is Sir John Bourne, former Comptroller and Auditor General of the UK. He has a PhD in public administration, was a University Professor and was considered an expert, indeed an authority, in the field of public finance and administration.
6. It is not true that I was not a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana. The records will show that I once held the position of Secretary of the Institute. Having said that, I might have lapsed in terms of my membership dues. However, upon return to Guyana this year, although retired, I took steps to re-apply for membership of the Institute.
7. As regards my stint at the United Nations, I had eight months’ leave to my credit. I wanted to do something beneficial with my leave. I was offered a short-term assignment with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia to assist these two war-torn countries.
The Government approved of my going on leave to undertake the assignment. Having exhausted my leave, the Government approved of a further period of no-pay leave, after which I returned home in August 2004 to resume duties.
Although I could have stayed on with the UN, my decision to return home was dictated solely by my desire to continue to serve my country. There was no other consideration.
8. It is inconceivable for someone to think that I went to the UN to bolster my pension. How is that possible, I don’t know? I was on annual leave, then no-pay leave.
The no-pay leave does not count for superannuation benefits. My UN salary has nothing to do with my Guyana pension. It is computed based on a combination of my years of service with the Government of Guyana and my average salary in the last three years of my service.
It should be noted that not all my service was counted in my superannuation benefits since the Government did not approve of the linking of eight years of teaching service during the period 1969-1977. But that is another matter.
9. It is true that I recommended Mr. Balram to act as Auditor General until I returned from the UN.
Mr. Balram was next in line in the Audit Office, and in accordance with the Public Service rules, I could not have recommended anyone else.
There was nothing opportunistic about this. It is also true that Mr. Sharma has the same qualifications as Mr. Balram, i.e. a degree in accounting from the University of Guyana. I taught both of them at the University.
In my interview with Stabroek News, I was not questioning Mr. Sharma’s acting appointment (since this was in conformity with the Public Service rules) but his rather prolonged stint as Acting Auditor General, especially since the position has been vacant since I demitted office in January 2005. I don’t understand how this is “a most vulgar display of opportunistic opinion shopping”.
I would be happy to engage in a discussion with whoever wrote the article for “Guyana Times”.
10. Finally, my son is not me. He has a mind of his own. I was working with the UN in New York when he agreed for his name to be placed in the AFC’s list of candidates for the 2006 elections. Some of my close relatives are close to the PPP.
That is their choice and their democratic right. For me, I have chosen the independent path. I speak up based on my own conscience on what is morally and ethical right and with the public interest at heart. I was there before the AFC, and if my views coincide with those of the AFC, why should I be condemned?