Oct 13, 2015 News
– no acts of corruption or favoritism at unit
While the findings of a forensic audit into the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) point to some “glaring acts of corruption” the Head of the entity, Valmikki Singh, is contending that this is not the case.
In a statement, yesterday, Singh stated that the NFMU does not practise favouritism and that all of its financial reports are submitted to the Ministry of Finance on a monthly basis for review. Singh said those reports are also submitted to its subject minister—the Prime Minister.
Kaieteur News reported last week that the Unit had spent millions of dollars on two ICT projects which were pursued by the then PPP Government. Those two projects were the One Laptop Per Family Project and the Fibre Optic Cable from Brazil to Guyana to support the PPP’s e-Governance project.
Singh did not deny this but made it clear that his agency acted based on instructions handed down by the past government to fund mostly operational costs for the OLPF and the e-Governance projects. He said, too, that his Unit ensured that every single request for payment submitted for the ICT projects, pre-May 11, 2015, was approved by the then Presidential Secretariat before such payment was made.
The NFMU Head emphasized that this approach continued even after the May 2015 elections, where the Ministry of the Presidency and the Office of the Prime Minister authorized every request for payment.
He noted that all expenditure made by the NFMU for the ICT projects were included in the NFMU budget estimates which were considered and approved by the Committee of Supply of the National Assembly for the years 2012 to 2015.
Singh said that he is confident that any fair assessment and report of its operations will reveal that the NFMU is properly managed and that there were no acts of corruption or fraud at the agency.
Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, told this newspaper last week that the forensic audit reveals that “several fraudulent decisions opened up the Unit to abuse and horrible acts of corruption.”
Sharma, who is in charge of the forensic audits, also pointed out that the level of corruption which was taking place at the agency “exposes” the incompetence and “lack of integrity” of those who are in charge.
“I really expected better from the Head of this Unit, Valmikki Singh, who earns around US$4,500 per month. All these things that happened under the Unit highlight a lack of professionalism, malfeasance in office and incompetence from him and those managing it. They occurred under his watch. It is unbelievable what they were getting away with under the PPP.”
Sharma’s comments was based on the fact that the forensic audit into the Unit found that “almost 90 percent of the funds of the Frequency Management Unit dating back to 2012, were spent on two projects that had absolutely nothing to do with the agency.”
The report on the forensic audit which was conducted by Chartered Accountant Chris Ram, showed that in some cases, the hog of the Unit’s funds went to the PPP’s failed Fibre Optic Cable from Brazil and the One Lap Top per Family project. Sharma said that he found this to be “very strange and downright deceitful.”
The fibre optic cable which was started in 2011 was intended to bring another source of internet connectivity to Guyana. It should have been completed by 2013, but turned out to be a major embarrassment for the previous administration, after it faced delays due to damage and other technical issues.
It was part of a bigger initiative to advance Guyana’s e-governance drive and equip 90,000 poor families with laptops and link state agencies into a network.
The contract signed between Dr. Roger Luncheon and Faisal Mohamed for the repair of the cable from Brazil has been described as the most generous giveaway package, worse that the Sanata Complex in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
It also mirrored the giveaway of the radio frequencies done under the administration of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, during his last days.
“It is unbelievable that (the NFMU) was hiding expenditure on these projects. It goes to show the kind of financial lawlessness that was allowed to take place at these agencies,” said the Junior Finance Minister.
“They could have collected a lot more revenue but no. They allowed a lot of favouritism to take place and as such they lost, I would say, millions in revenue. They allowed their PPP boys to slip under the radar while others were called upon to pay their dues. In fact, they weren’t collecting from two of their PPP big boys for some time. It was a lot of unfairness that was going on at that agency.”
Sharma had said that the revelations of some of the forensic audits thus far vindicate the concerns the APNU+AFC had when it served in the opposition regarding the lack of accountability under the previous administration as well as the stench of corruption in some agencies.
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