…to also enforce foreign restraint orders
Guyana’s State Asset Recovery Unit will soon be legally vested with powers to freeze assets and enforce foreign restraint orders.
Yesterday, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, said that as Government makes moves to improve accountability and transparency, a number of steps were taken including the establishment of SARU.
He said, “This unit will soon be vested with the authority and appropriate State powers to execute its mandate in the recovery of assets, investigations, asset tracing, freezing and seizing of assets, and the enforcement of foreign restraint orders and confiscation.”
Jordan told the House about several internal forensic audits that were being undertaken to review the performance and efficiency of publicly-owned entities, statutory bodies and projects and activities financed by or through public funds.
The Finance Minister said that most of the audits have been completed. He noted that a preliminary analysis indicates that there were acts of dishonesty and duplicity, mismanagement of resources, opaqueness of transactions and a disregard for basic internal controls, among others.
Jordan said that this was compounded by the absence or non-existence of functioning Internal Audit Departments.
He said, “The Audits identified many instances where the laws governing the entities and their operations were violated with impunity, in particular the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act and the Procurement Act.”
The Finance Minister said that the audits will provide a guidepost on enhancing accountability and transparency through improved operational procedures, financial reporting, corporate governance and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
It was in May that the Granger administration began expending some $133 M of taxpayers’ money on a series of forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
Jordan was grilled by members of the opposition during the 2015 budget debates on the Forensic audits, the Terms of Reference implemented and the cost for each.
Several audits were launched in July while others started in later weeks. The report on NICIL has been completed while those on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) have been completed for a longer period.
NICIL’s report has since been handed over to the Special Organized Crime Unit for further investigations.
Most of the forensic audits have unearthed several hidden accounts with billions of dollars poised to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund.
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.
The government was 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 on Saturday 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 forensic audit into the NFMU has unearthed some of the “most appalling acts of corruption”, said Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, in a previous interview with Kaieteur News.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Sharma had said, “There was just no proper management at this unit. There were instances where you could see that they just lost out on millions of dollars worth in fees that they should have ensured they collected.
“There were some defaulters as well, and the agency just took no action against them.”
“(NFMU) could have collected a lot more revenue. Instead (the entity) allowed a lot of favouritism to take place and as such they lost, I would say, millions of dollars in revenue.
“They allowed their big 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.”
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