NCN board examines role of GuyEnterprise in scam
Internal investigations at the state-owned radio and television company, National Communications Network (NCN), are continuing, a senior spokesman of the ruling administration has admitted.
Responding to media queries last week on why the police have not been called in as yet, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, said that a probe is ongoing and has not been concluded as yet.
It will be the first official admission by the government of a wider probe of what is turning out to be an embarrassing episode spiced with widespread allegations of fraud, cronyism, and seemingly deliberate attempts to bypass accounting and other internal systems at NCN.
Dr Luncheon did not rule out the police being called in when the findings and recommendations of the current probe are handed over to the board and to the Minister of Information…who happens to be, in this case, President Donald Ramotar.
It was the same Office of the President, in June, that ordered a special investigation into payments from the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) for taping and producing the highly popular Jingle and Song Competition.
Following the refusal by GT&T’s Chief Executive Office, Yog Mahadeo, to pay over $3M to Martin Goolsarran, NCN’s Production Manager, for work done, OP acting on complaints, hired private accountant, Harryram Parmesar, to investigate the deal and payments by GT&T.
One of the major discoveries was that Goolsarran submitted an invoice in his personal name and then took the money and deposited it into his personal bank account.
He was handed an eight-week suspension which ended two Mondays ago. NCN’s Board of Directors then extended the leave as public pressure mounted for the investigation to be widened.
Former Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed ‘Fuzzy’ Sattaur, resigned following the submission of the damning auditor report to the Board which found that the two failed in their duties and even at one stage attempted to cover their tracks by pressuring staffers to illegally backdate invoices.
There have been several allegations being made following the report.
There are allegations surfacing now of links between Sattaur and GuyEnterprise, an advertising company which strongly suggested that there may have been a conflict of interest situation in which the agency was granted lucrative rates, below what was offered by NCN to other clients.
There accusations have also drawn in Sattaur’s wife, a manager at GuyEnterprise.
Officials of NCN have alleged that a specific body to deal with advertising rates at NCN, called the Rates Committee, was deliberately not activated and that both Sattaur and Goolsarran unilaterally made decisions about deals, all breaching the established internal procedures and policies.
Yesterday, a senior staff member who asked not to be named, made it clear that the questions were many.
“One can only surmise as to the amount of money that is either stolen, mismanaged or did not come to the coffers of NCN. If we are to presume that NCN did not really need the government subsidy yearly because of what was being earned in revenues, then the possibilities are staggering. Where was the $65M they taking from Government going?”
Poorly kept records indicated that cameras were missing and reporters were not being managed according to procedures and records of revenues were poorly kept.
Earlier this year, during the budget debate in Parliament, it was disclosed that NCN raked in around $500M in revenues last year. Where this money went, it is unclear. But the opposition, Alliance For Change and the A Partnership For National Unity have both blocked government subsidies to the tune of $65M to NCN.
Both have called for a wider probe and for the police to be called in at the state entity and for charges to be laid against Sattaur and his deputy, Goolsarran. They have also accused the NCN of pursuing a policy of being partisan to government coverage.
NCN reportedly also offers shooting and packaging programmes which were also not reflected in the daily log records and were probably siphoned off in the alleged racket.
According to NCN insiders, upper management kept such a tight lid on records that very few persons knew of the deals that were being made with advertisers.
There was even one case where a popular television music host reportedly exchanged harsh words with NCN’s management after cheques that were paid by sponsors were “deliberately” used to offset other clients’ accounts.
Fortunately for the music host, he was a good keeper of his records and as such was able to prove that his accounts were up-to-date.
What has also been startling was the seemingly scant oversight responsibility paid to NCN’s operations by the Board of Directors. Two top officials including Dr. Prem Misir both sit on the board…Misir is the Chairman.
There are also questions about a deal between NCN and another television station over the showing of cricket matches from Sportsmax, a Jamaica-based television channel, that has the rights to sporting events transmitted throughout the Caribbean.
The local representative for the Sportsmax channel is NCN and a deal was made for the other channel to show the IPL cricket but the records of the deal and the payments were either not clear or missing.
NCN is currently running a series of debates on corruption. These debates have been accused by the opposition parties of being heavily loaded to favor government. A Partnership For National Unity, the largest opposition has refused to participate.