APNU joins call for full-blown probe of NCN
As details of a leaked report continue to raise questions about the extent of wrongdoing at the state-owned television and radio stations, there are now more revelations about possible secret deals over placement of ads and a possible conflict of interest regarding family ties.
A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) has joined the call by the Alliance For Change (AFC) for a full-blown probe of the National Communications Network (NCN).
According to APNU’s Parliamentarian, Joseph Harmon, the coalition has received information that a close family member of one of the two beleaguered executives works with an advertising company, which may have presented a conflict of interest situation.
An investigation by auditor, Harry Parmessar, ordered by the Office of the President, into allegations of financial irregularities at NCN with payments from GT&T’s Jingle and Song Competition, led to Sattaur’s resignation and an eight weeks suspension of his deputy and well known broadcaster, Martin Goolsarran, in late June.
Government had refused to release the report but it was leaked to a parliamentarian who made it available to Kaieteur News last week.
It spoke of shocking breaches of systems and poorly kept records at NCN. It also revealed that Goolsarran submitted an invoice in his own name and home address, collecting over $3M for production work done on the song competition. Goolsarran admitted that he deposited the money into his personal account and then paid HJTV, a local production company, which NCN had sub-contracted for the job. Both Sattaur and Goolsarran were accused of pressuring staff to backdate records in an obvious attempt to cover their tracks.
Tip of Iceberg
According to Harmon, there is increasing evidence that the Harry Parmessar report only covered the tip of the iceberg.
The Parliamentarian, also a lawyer by profession, explained that emerging evidence found that NCN had a functioning relationship with an advertising agency where one of the two men’s close relatives worked.
“The fact that one of these men’s relatives was at the advertising agency which would place ads at NCN, created in our view a serious conflict of interest. It is a wonder that the NCN’s board was either ignorant of this or choose to do nothing in the face of blatant conflict,” Harmon said.
“Its function as an agency is in both stead – that is, it earns a commission from NCN as well as from its client companies. These discounts are, quite rightly, the margins of the advertising agency.”
According to Harmon, APNU’s primary concern is whether there were any checks and balances or reconciliation done periodically to match the airtime sold to the moneys received by NCN.
The Harry Parmessar report had spoken of poorly kept records at NCN in which it was difficult to determine how much money the entity was actually making. The report had also found that clients were not being billed.
“At the very least, we expect that the main business clients of NCN should be checked for work orders, rates and moneys collected. Unless this is done, no one can establish whether there were any incestuous relationships, and if NCN’s dealings with particular companies were above board.”
“NCN will remain on trial in the public’s eyes until a full disclosure is made of its operations. NCN is not owned by the Government, it is owned by the people of Guyana. We demand answers.”
He called for the company to be placed under a separate ministry which will allow it to be scrutinized
Opposition parties in Parliament, earlier this year, blocked millions of dollars in subsidies to NCN and its sister agency, the Government Information Agency (GINA), calling for reforms and claiming the two were heavily biased in favour of government.