Auditor who recommends sacking of two Govt officers sent on leave
The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority has commenced strong action against its internal auditor who recommended the dismissal of its Chief Executive Officer Lionel Wordsworth and a Senior Section Engineer in a damning audit report.
The auditor was sent on administrative leave as the entity probes what it described as a breach of protocol and procedure.
The auditor in a report, which alleged procurement fraud on the part of NDIA Chief Executive Officer, Lionel Wordsworth, in collusion with Senior Section Engineer, Aneel Chowbay, and a conflict of interest involving Chowbay, was sent on administrative leave last Thursday.
The auditor in an unprecedented move had forwarded his report to President Donald Ramotar, a move that was criticised by the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and more recently by Chairman of the Region Four Democratic Council, Clement Corlette.
Only recently, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NDIA, Dharmkumar Seeraj to whom the initial audit report was addressed, had told this newspaper that he is still awaiting a final report after the CEO and the Engineer would have responded to the allegations made against them.
While the move to send the auditor on leave is being viewed as retaliation to his audit report, informed sources at the Ministry of Agriculture have informed this newspaper that the action taken was in response to the auditor’s walking out of a meeting that was chaired by the Permanent Secretary.
The meeting was reportedly dealing with the leakage of the report to the media.
The move against the auditor is also being seen as dealing with the messenger rather than the message.
It certainly will not surprise Alliance For Change Leader Khemraj Ramjattan who had predicted it a few weeks ago when excerpts of the leaked audit report were published.
Ramjattan, in a recent interview, had expressed pessimism that anything would be done to the CEO, since that he deemed him (Wordsworth) a favourite of President Ramotar.
He opined that the auditors who dare to reveal the corruption may have their contracts terminated.
Many internal audits are conducted and their findings are kept from the public. This should not be the norm, Ramjattan said. He suggested that these reports should be presented to Parliament and given to the media for dissemination to the public.
Unless the culture of transparency and accountability is cultivated, auditors will be unable to bring to the public’s attention corruption, Ramjattan said. “It will also have a serious effect on a number of auditors not wanting to do anything,” he added.
“Instead of sending Wordsworth and the Engineer on leave to facilitate an investigation, they have decided that the auditor must go,” said a source at the Ministry of Agriculture.
The audit on the NDIA’s fuel consumption and equipment operations and maintenance, was conducted between May and September. It was completed and submitted to the Chairman of the NDIA Board of Directors on September 26.
The report concluded that fraudulent acts were committed by NDIA Chief Executive officer Lionel Wordsworth and Senior Section Engineer (SSE) Mr. Aneel Chowbay, in breach of the Procurement Act 2003.
It speaks of conflict of interest and sole sourcing of services such as the supply of fuel and the awarding of contracts to relations of senior NDIA operatives, in breach of national procurement procedures.
Since the publication, the Ministry of Agriculture has sought to discredit the author of the audit report and there are reports that the Auditor is under tremendous pressure to retain his job.
The Ministry had described the report as unsubstantiated by a person who has a personal agenda.
The Internal Auditor is the Head of the Inspectorate Department of the NDIA which was set up in following a meeting of the Board earlier this year.
This body which is up and running is to provide oversight of the management of the D&I infrastructure.
In 2011, the NDIA was allotted a whopping $1.495B, out of which $1.228B was expended on the payment of contracts amounting to $1.227B, and for the purchase of office furniture to the tune of $1.128M.