…This is a major blunder that will not serve in the best interest of the nation – Kissoon
By Abena Rockcliffe
The Auditor General’s Office is now getting ready to begin what is being regarded as phase two of the forensic audit. This phase is critical and Observers and anti-corruption advocates are saying that government is making a less than wise move in allowing the Office of the Auditor General to conduct this phase because of the obvious implications.
The Auditor General’s office will be reviewing the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) in this stage. The Forensic Audit done on NICIL by Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran was one of the most revealing among the series of audits launched by the new Administration.
The damning revelations highlighted in this report as well as the strong recommendations made, may either be discredited or given further credence in the report of the upcoming audit.
For example, Goolsarran pointed out some shady deals that NICIL entered into during the reign of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) administration. Some amount of what was flagged by Goolsarran was based on information presented to him in reports prepared by NICIL’s embattled Executive Director, Winston Brassington. Phase two would have allowed Goolsarran to compare what was presented to him by Brassington to actual contracts, agreements and receipts. It would have allowed him to prove if the documents prepared by Brassington and presented to the National Assembly are indeed factual.
However, instead of allowing Goolsarran or another Chartered Accountant to continue along this line, government has decided to let the Office of the Auditor General do it. Therefore, the Auditor General’s Office will be reviewing transactions that it had previously given a clean report. The Office will now be forced to either say that previous audits ignored certain facts or it will maintain that NICIL’s transactions were above board.
When contacted, Minister of Finance, Winton Jordan said that he does not see a problem. The Minister told Kaieteur News that the Auditor General is constitutionally mandated to carry out the Audit.
Asked if he was not concerned that there may be a conflict of interest, the Minister responded, “why should I, it is up to the AG to defend.”
NICIL is a company. The laws of Guyana under the Companies Act, says “The provisions of sections 48 and 49 of Part VII of the Public Corporations Act relating to the accounts and audit shall apply mutatis mutandis to Government companies.”
Section 48 of Part VVI of the Public Corporation Act, says “The Concerned Minister may, at anytime appoint an auditor to examine the accounts of the corporation and to report thereon to him.
In the companies act, a Government Company is defined as, “Any company in which not less than fifty-one per cent of the paid up share capital is held by Government and includes a company which is a subsidiary of a Government Company.”
Further, about the office and functions of the Auditor General, the Constitution, says “Public account of Guyana and of all officers and authorities of the Government of Guyana (including Commissions established by this constitution) and the account of the Clerk of the National Assembly and of all courts in Guyana shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor General and for that purpose the Auditor General or any person authorized by him in that behalf shall have access to all books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts.”
In an invited comment, Columnist and Anti-Corruption advocate, Fredrick Kissoon told Kaieteur News that the law indeed allows the Minister the latitude to seek additional investigation on financial transactions “it happens all over the world.”
Kissoon said that while the Finance Minister has a valid point that the law allows the AG to revisit an inquiry that he has completed, it is also true that the law does not, in any way, prevent the Government of Guyana, specifically the Ministry of Finance to seek additional expertise.
“There is no law that prevents any Ministry from seeking external assistance. In fact the Guyana Police Force is at the moment about to embark on the acceptance of outside assistance. It would be useful if the Minister can sight which law would prevent him from further consulting Mr. Goolsarran or any other reputable Chartered Accountant or auditing firm.”
Kissoon pointed out that the government is now asking the Auditor General’s office to cover terrain which it had already covered and pronounced on. He said that as a result of such a decision, the government can open itself to two kinds of accusations; facilitating a clear case of conflict of interest and futility in reputation.
“In terms of conflict of interest, should the revisit result in a different finding it causes him to question the accuracy of previous reports and to avoid exposing itself to a poor previous findings it may very well stick with its original decision. That would be called futility in reputation,” said Kissoon.
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