By Kiana Wilburg
More than six months have elapsed and the nation is yet to see the findings of several of the completed forensic audit reports.
Even in the face of this reality, Minister of State Joseph Harmon maintains that there is no
delay in this regard.
He made this remark in response to questions yesterday by this newspaper at a post-cabinet briefing held at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Kaieteur News informed Harmon that there have been several complaints about the delays in releasing the reports for public perusal. He was asked if Cabinet sought to ascertain why there seems to be a delay in releasing the reports given that some reports, such as the one on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Inc. (NICIL), have been completed for more than a month now.
The Minister did not say whether Cabinet tried in any way to seek clarification on the matter from Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, who is in charge of the forensic audits.
Instead, Harmon brought into question, what one can determine to be a ‘delay’ in the circumstances.
“I don’t know what you perceive to be delays, but I can say that when they get to Cabinet, we will get to them. Let me explain that when an audit is done, the audited entity receives the report and does some evaluation. The Board has to have an opportunity to study the report and then it is taken by the subject Minister to Cabinet…”
He continued, “I do not understand that there is any delay in it. The audit work is not something you rush. Sometimes you have statements that are made which need to be followed up and this is my experience in looking at these things, because the auditors may come to certain conclusions without the benefit of all of the information.”
Harmon reiterated that while Cabinet has not received any of the reports, when it does, it will act expeditiously.
It was in May that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars on a series of forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
Several audits were also launched in July while others started in later weeks. While the report on NICIL has been completed for over a month, those on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) have been completed for a longer period.
Most of the forensic audits have unearthed several hidden accounts, with billions of dollars poised to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund by year end. Government stated that this phased transfer process has already started.
More importantly, the forensic audits in some cases have reportedly not only uncovered fraud and various forms of corruption, but investigators have also made several critical recommendations for the way forward on several agencies and sectors, all of which Cabinet is yet to see.
The Government was also recently blasted for failing to release the forensic audit reports in a timely manner to the public. Making this comment in particular was Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, during his most recent press conference which was held on Saturday last at Freedom House.
“Government needs to release the reports now. Where are the audit reports? I thought they would have done one on the Specialty Hospital too. But they need to release the other audit reports on NICIL along with NICIL’s statements. There was supposed to be one on Hope Canal, the Marriott Hotel etc…they need to release these reports so that the people can comment on them.”
The only report released thus far is one on Carifesta X.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan admitted that several reports have been completed, but he has not yet gotten the opportunity to read the reports. He noted too that no recommendation from the reports have been implemented as yet, as they require Cabinet’s blessings.
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