Jun 12, 2012 News
The scandal at the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) within the last few days has now expanded to include at least one other television station.
There are also questions being asked how advertisers paid millions of dollars in cheques that were made out to high-ranking individuals attached to NCN to sponsor programmes.
Kaieteur News is now being told that the Board of Directors, which is spearheading the probe into NCN’s finances, is looking at how NTN Channel 69 may have benefitted from showing cricket matches broadcasted on Sportsmax.
Sportsmax is a Jamaica-based television channel that has the rights to sporting events transmitted throughout the Caribbean.
According to officials close to the ongoing probe, which has been prompted by widespread wrongdoings at the network, the local representative for the Sportsmax channel is NCN.
This newspaper understands that NTN Channel 69 had struck a deal with NCN to show cricket being transmitted by Sportsmax, including the recent IPL and other games.
A probe of the payments made by NTN to the state network’s accounts has unearthed hundreds of thousands of dollars not yet paid over to NCN, months after the games would have been aired on that privately-owned station.
On Friday, NCN’s Production Manager, Martin Goolsarran, was sent on leave pending investigation.
Also under probe is Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Sattaur.
The investigations are being headed by Board Chairman, Prem Misir. Goolsarran’s job would be performed by Michael Gordon, who is now Programme Coordinator.
Questions had risen over NCN’s finances after it was revealed during the 2012 National Budget debate in Parliament that the network raked in more than $500M last year. Yet it was depending on $80M in subsidy from Government this year to pay salaries and other expenses. Management and workers, including Sattaur, had staged a public protest after the opposition parties, AFC and APNU, reduced the $80M to $1.
Back at work
Over the weekend also, it was revealed that the corruption and wrongdoings at NCN, which has extended coverage in the three counties, may have reached the New Amsterdam operations.
In one case, a hire care driver, brought on for the November general elections, had ceased working in December yet every month NCN head office was sending a cheque for over $40,000. The money was being pocketed by a senior official at the station, this newspaper was told.
Staffers at the NCN Berbice office had told this newspaper that it had no driver by that name.
Yesterday, the driver, whose name was given as Zabarally Armogan was back at the station, with his car parked in the compound.
Kaieteur News has photographs of Armogan working his hire car at New Amsterdam, during the days he was supposed to be working at NCN. He is also on tape saying he stopped working at NCN since December.
Following the publication of the story on Sunday, night staffers said they had met with the station’s management at the Berbice location on Sunday where they were “threatened” with dismissal if it was found out who “secretly leaked” what was viewed as internal business of that state-owned entity.
There were also allegations of money taken in for ads, being pocketed by a senior official of that Berbice location.
Yesterday, also Chairman of the NCN’s Board of Directors, Prem Misir, was not prepared to speak on the matter. His office said he was in all-day meetings.
Efforts were also made to contact NCN’s Berbice Manager, Faizal Jaffarally yesterday. A female about to connect the call, slammed down the phone after learning that it was Kaieteur News.
Another male later answered and promised to relay the message to Jaffarally, a PPP/C Parliamentarian. There were no return calls from that station.
Over the weekend also, observers and concerned staff members urged the removal of the entity’s Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Sattaur, in order to facilitate the independent probe.
Kaieteur News understands that the board questioned the amount of money NCN made on the recently held GT&T Song competition.
There are reports that some of the revenues such as production costs cannot be accounted for. In fact while the NCN charged the telephone company production costs, somewhere in the vicinity of $7M, staff members who worked on the production are alleging that they were not paid.
Then there is the purchase of a multi-million-dollar outside broadcast vehicle, which is at present lying unused in the compound following its acquisition several months ago.
This newspaper was reliably informed that the vehicle which is to be used for outside radio broadcast is down for the want of several important components. The old radio Outside Broadcast vehicle is currently gathering moss in another section of the NCN compound.
According to the source, an independent investigation will also reveal that the company may have also have purchased reconditioned cameras instead of brand new ones as documented in their budgetary requests.
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