A leaked report on investigations at the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) has revealed startling details of how two under-fire managers in June attempted to pressure female staffers to backdate a $3.6 million invoice to January to cover up their tracks. But the staffers, from the Marketing Department, refused and later told investigators that they thought it unethical at the time.
The leaked report, while not making it clear, suggested that the attempts were made even while the investigations were ongoing or about to start. The report also suggested that both officials were probably desperate at the time.
In late June, Programme Manager Martin Goolsarran was suspended for eight weeks while Mohamed Sattaur, the Chief Executive Officer, tendered his resignation after the report was tendered to NCN’s Board of Directors. The events had rocked NCN to the core.
Over the weekend, Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, called for a criminal investigation against the two men and has accused government of attempting to cover up the report which he said should be handed over to the police as well.
It will be recalled that the NCN investigation was sparked after revelations in Parliament that the entity, which controls the country’s only authorized radio stations and has a network of television stations across the land, last year raked in more than $500M in revenue, yet wanted government subsidies to the tune of millions.
Following complaints, the board had ordered a probe into reports that all was not right with payments from GT&T following last year’s hugely popular Jingle and Song Competition.
GT&T had hired NCN to tape the show but the state entity decided in turn to sub-contract the work to Hits and Jams Television.
The investigations found that Goolsarran was paid more than $3M in cheques from GT&T which he deposited to his own personal bank account.
The matter had spilled over to GT&T where Yog Mahadeo, the CEO, stepped down after it was found that several breaches were made in that company’s accounting systems, including to make unauthorized payments to Goolsarran, in his name, instead of NCN.
A number of other high-ranking GT&T employees including its Chief Financial Officer were also sent home.
According to the report, which was ordered by the Board and a copy of which Kaieteur News has in its possession, in June, the CEO and Goolsarran requested the staffer to illegally prepare an invoice to the tune of $3,620,000 and have it dated to January. The invoice was to cover production costs done for GT&T’s Jingle and Song Competition for the period November 2011 to January 2012.
The female staffer refused saying there was no job order.
Sattaur and Goolsarran then approached another staffer to prepare the job order but that staffer too refused.
The investigator, accountant Harry Parmessar, in his report to NCN’s Board of Directors also tendered a damning document.
NCN’s Programme Manager, Martin Goolsarran, had submitted an invoice dated January 10th for $3,620,000 to the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) for work done in the third phase of the Jingle and Song Competition. What was shocking was the fact that Goolsarran issued the invoice in his own name, and did not use NCN’s letterhead. Instead, he listed his home address in Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
He claimed that he had mistakenly sent the document to GT&T’s agent, Wanita Huburn, for confirmation of the production dates. He claimed that this was later corrected and NCN had issued the invoice in his own name.
The report found that NCN did not prepare a written contract with Hits and Jams and that it was all an oral arrangement. Based on the arrangement, NCN would have earned $3,620,000 while Hits and Jams, was to receive $3,930,000 for production services.
“Mr Martin Goolsarran admitted that he received on two occasions amounts totaling $3,930,000 in December 2011 from GT&T for production services. These amounts were deposited to his personal bank account, He claimed that the $3,930,000 was paid to HJTV on two occasions for their services.”
Another strange thing that the report spoke about was the fact that while Goolsarran said he paid that money to Hits and Jams for production costs for the Jingle and Song Competition, the receipts referred to another competition last year called the GT&T Guyana Star 2011 Competition and that the work was for recording and editing. The Guyana Star Competition was held in August and September.
A senior official from Hits and Jams, Kerwin Bollers, was also questioned during the investigations.
“It would appear…that Mr. Martin Goolsarran submitted a personal invoice to GT&T for $3,620,000 in January 2012 but in June 2012 was attempting to have an NCN invoice be prepared and backdated to Janaury 2012, to cover up the personal invoice which was not settled by GT&T. Further, Mr Mohamed Sattaur was assisting Mr Martin Goolsarran in having the invoice prepared by the Finance Department,” the report said in the findings.
Conflict of Interest
The report made it clear that both the CEO and Goolsarran failed to carry out their duties diligently and professionally.
“They have knowingly breached the company’s internal control procedures. Their actions in dealing with the GT&T Jingle and Song Competition clearly demonstrated conflict of interest.”
In addition to breaches of NCN’s General Administration Manual, the report also said that the payments to Hits and Jams for $3,930,000 could not be reliably verified and that several internal controls, including records of movements of staffers, were not kept up-to-date.
The report recommended that Sattaur’s performance be reviewed since as the CEO, he failed to execute his duties in a professional manner and condoned breaches in NCN’s internal controls.
“He has also demonstrated poor leadership qualities which are necessary to manage an organization like NCN.”
Regarding Goolsarran, the accountant made it clear that he has demonstrated “his unsuitability for the role of Production Manager.”
The report also recommended the Board of Directors to take actions, including legal ones, to recover loss of revenue for all amounts paid to any individual.
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