By: Kiana Wilburg
It appears that Finance Minister, Winston Jordan was not bluffing when he said recently that several forensic audits will be conducted to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
Preparations are already afoot for a series of rigorous audits on state agencies, national projects and funds which were deemed by the A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) to be tainted by some form of corruption.
Jordan said that he has submitted a list of about 30 state entities; funds and national projects to the Ministry of the Presidency which he believes warrant an immediate forensic audit. He said that once Cabinet gives the green light this week, work shall commence. The special team will comprise of “highly qualified and competent officials skilled in this sort of exercise,” the Finance Minister expressed.
Kaieteur News understands that among the top agencies to undergo rigorous audits are the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Jordan said that preliminary discussions were already held with NICIL’s head Winston Brassington and GRA Commissioner General, Khurshid Sattaur.
Other funds slated for Cabinet’s approval of an audit come next week include; the Lotto Funds and the controversial account belonging to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
As for the Consolidated Fund which is in heavy overdraft, Jordan said that they have not cleared the deficits as yet but are in the process of making steps to do so. He said that a decision was also taken to close all inactive accounts.
Apart from being accused of having a “family affair” at the tax office, Sattaur was also bashed by the APNU+AFC when it was in the opposition for misusing his powers.
In fact, on October 6, 2014, the APNU threatened that it would bring a malfeasance in office charge against Sattaur.
This came after the revelation of the Commissioner General sending emails containing the tax information of several media houses to former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
This information was then forwarded to former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had contended that that action is, without a doubt, an undeniable breach of the Oath of Secrecy that was taken by the Chartered Accountant.
Since the revelations by this newspaper, calls have been unending for Sattaur’s immediate resignation.
Harmon had deduced that Sattaur’s actions indicated that he feels he is in the “Wild, Wild West and his office is his ammunition.”
He had said, “he (Sattaur) has inflicted diseases on the GRA, those being—disregard for professional ethics, disregard for the rights of citizens to confidentiality, disregard for integrity that his office should have, and most of all a blatant disrespect to the fourth estate’s right to freedom of speech and the country’s right to democracy. They are now spreading to the other ministries.”
The AFC faction of the coalition government in a statement it had issued to the media last year expressed similar sentiments, while calling for the resignation of the GRA boss.
As for NICIL’s Head, Winston Brassington, the APNU+AFC was also relentless in condemning the official for his involvement in several alleged corrupt activities.
On numerous occasions, calls were made for him to hit the road too. He has been at the helm of some of the most controversial projects including the Marriott Hotel, funded with mostly taxpayers’ money.
He has been blamed as well for being unable to deal with the significant line losses incurred by the Guyana Power and Light and lost the confidence of several top officials in the new administration for being trusted to run anything with honesty and integrity.
When contacted for his input, Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo said that the forensic audits were promised to the Guyanese people to be undertaken within one hundred days and at least mechanisms should be in place for these critical audits to be conducted.
The Minister of Information mentioned the case of the sugar industry being crippled by the previous administration, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). He said that there is certainly an urgent need for a “full and complete disclosure” of what went wrong.
As for NICIL, the First Vice President articulated that this entity has been the focus of the APNU+AFC’s attention as one of the “hidden or secret empires of the previous gangs” which served as a parallel budget.
Nagamootoo emphasized that certainly, the agency is one that requires a strict investigation and he would eagerly look forward to the recommendations for its restructuring and the way forward.
He stressed that the APNU+AFC government is one that stands for inclusionary democracy and the right procedures will be undertaken for justice to be had as was promised to the citizenry.
As for the olive branch extended to the PPP to join the unity movement, the Minister said that “it is still fresh and green” and he hopes that the previous administration will not “wait until it withers before it can embrace cooperation as its new method of struggle.”
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