The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) says that it remains committed to honour an offer by accountant, Christopher Ram, to conduct a forensic audit on the recently commissioned Enmore packaging plant.
The commitment, via a statement yesterday, came shortly after the refusal by the Auditor General to allow it.
According to GuySuCo yesterday, it “remains committed to its offer of a forensic audit of Project Gold at Enmore by Mr. Christopher Ram.”
The statement also noted that the offer was made by the Minister of Agriculture,Robert Persaud, after Ram and Kaieteur News questioned the cost of the packaging plant which is just one aspect of the Project Gold.
While GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul Bhim, was not immediately available to explain the statement yesterday, a senior official who asked not to be named, insisted that the Corporation was more than willing to open its books.
“The law is the law…if that is what the Auditor General said, then GuySuCo will have to live with it.”
Bhim in a letter, dated Friday, wrote Ram informing him that the Auditor General has not given approval for the Forensic Audit of Project Gold to proceed.
But Ram is insisting that a forensic investigation, tax compliance work or consulting service, does not fall within the Audit Act and therefore does not require any form of approval by the Auditor General.
Even on an unnecessarily wide reading of the Audit Act the Auditor General does not have a final or overriding jurisdiction in the matter, Ram said.
According to Ram, had Deodat Sharma, the acting Auditor General, been better inclined or informed he might have advised GuySuCo that, notwithstanding his [Sharma’s] “inflated sense of his authority”, the “Minister responsible for finance [could] request the Public Accounts Committee to cause an additional audit to be conducted by an auditor other than the Auditor General.”
The reason for the audit arose after questions were asked about Project Gold, under which the plant at Enmore was built. Ram had raised questions about the cost and suitability of the plant.
On May 24, the Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud threw out the challenge for the plant to be audited, once it does not incur any costs on the part of the government or GuySuco.
Two days later, Ram accepted the challenge and Kaieteur News agreed to foot the bill.
Yesterday, Managing Director and Publisher of Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall, explained that rather than Kaieteur News footing the bill for the forensic audit, it was he who would have been “pushing his hands into his pockets.”
He said that his newspaper has no problem with the sugar company. “Kaieteur News has its role in this society. This role is not about confronting GuySuCo.”
Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud, issued the challenge for the forensic audit, he had said “I am not bluffing. Whenever Mr. Ram is ready, he can make contact with the Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo, Paul Bhim, and the audit will be accommodated.”
Ram met with Bhim on June 7 “to discuss the terms and conditions of the engagement” but Ram said his impression from the meeting was that GuySuCo was not interested in the exercise, with its management indicating that the Corporation would not consider itself the client.
Bhim requested that Ram restate the terms in a letter and that he, Bhim, would consult with the Auditor General. Ram said he sent off the letter the following day to Bhim’s office.
But, Bhim subsequently informed Ram that given the non-approval by the Auditor General, the audit could not be conducted.
“For my part the matter is closed as I am convinced that neither the government nor the Corporation is serious or interested in any forensic investigation of any of the Corporation’s financial transactions. I will therefore not be part of anyone’s charade,” Ram stated.
The challenge by Minister Persaud came after Ram wrote that Kenya’s largest sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company (MSC), was recently built at a cost of US$3M, and consisted of a new 11-machine, state-of-the-art packaging plant with a daily capacity of 700 tonnes of sugar, or 200, 000 tonnes annually.
In comparison, the Enmore plant was built at four times the cost of the one built in Kenya and would be producing five times less sugar.
GuySuCo has stressed that the US$12.5M is the total cost of Project Gold, an initiative which includes the upgrade of the Enmore factory and the supply and installation of packaging equipment and warehouse, among other things.
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