Mar 07, 2016 News
– says Govt. has compromised transparency
Former President Donald Ramotar is not only lashing out at the Government for moving too slowly with the release of the forensic audit reports, but is also accusing it of compromising the transparency of the process.
His comments come in wake of the sacking of the Managing Director of the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil), Badrie Persaud a week ago.
The former President said that he finds this entire process to be highly unethical. He said that it also cements the opposition’s fears that Government is involved in a witch-hunting exercise and called on it to make public the report of the findings of a forensic audit.
Ramotar referred to a recent statement in which the Guyoil Board of Directors made it clear that it has no confidence in the official’s ability to execute his duties “honestly, objectively and efficiently”.
According to the Guyoil statement, the Board along with Nigel Hinds and Associates Financial Services, reviewed documents and verified the findings of a forensic audit conducted by the firm for the period November 1, 2011 to May 31, 2015.
The forensic audit was ordered by the David Granger administration shortly after it took office in May last year.
Guyoil’s Board said that Persaud, as Managing Director, took unauthorized decisions during the period.
The audit report was recently handed over to the Ministry of Finance and it will have to be studied by Cabinet.
Ramotar contended that if Government found the report solid enough to take certain decisions, then it should make the said report public for scrutiny.
The former head of state said, “The public is being kept in the dark about what really happened that caused the Board and the Forensic Auditor to have no confidence in the official. That should not be. If the report is good enough for them to take such a serious position then is it not good enough for the people to know why the official was sacked? This smacks in the face of transparency and does not look good for this Government. They have polluted the process with this dictatorial behaviour and treating with allegations of corruption on a need to know basis.”
The Executive member of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) also bemoaned the sloth of the Government in releasing the reports. He recalled numerous reports in the media which indicate that there are more than four of the 50 forensic audits completed.
“Government must start releasing these findings of the forensic audits and allow the process to be transparent. At this point, this administration is demonstrating that it is good at one thing and that is, being incompetent,” he said.
Ramotar said that the administration needs to keep the public informed every step of the way since the fears and uncertainty regarding the audits are increasing.
“ … The longer they take is the more we are inclined to conclude that they are doctoring the reports and/ or they have nothing to show us,” expressed the former President.
Also commenting on the said matter was University Professor, Dr. David Hinds.
In an interview with this newspaper, he said that when one looks at the fact that only four of the 50 forensic audits launched by the Government have been released, it is understandable that one would get the impression that it is indeed moving slow.
He believes that there are however, two important factors to take into consideration.
Dr. Hinds said, “First, is the government still treating these forensic audits as priority? I am not too sure. When a government settles into office, its priorities sometimes change in the face of changing circumstances. I think the weight of having to govern with such a slim majority may have engendered a softening of the government’s position.”
Hinds said that the truth of the matter is that the audits were commissioned on the belief that there was massive corruption under the previous government.
The political activist said that the second related question then is the extent to which the government thinks it is prudent to release the findings if they would not lead to sanctions.
Dr. Hinds posited, “We had some early leaks of the results of audits which were not followed by sanctions. And this frustrated government supporters who were galvanized to vote for the Coalition in part based on the promise to go after corruption.”
The University Professor opined that the government has since adopted a more cautious approach while it figures what it wants to do with the damaging evidence which he is sure, some of the audits have revealed.
Dr. Hinds said that if Government makes damaging evidence public and it does not follow through, then its own supporters would be disappointed. In this regard, the University Professor opined that politically, it is best to slow down the progress while the administration decides what to do.
He said that the burden falls on the media to push the government to release the audit reports.
“But based on the recent silence, I don’t think the government would be releasing them tomorrow. And I think in the end, it may work to their benefit.”
Questioned on why he believes that the Government would benefit in such a manner, Dr. Hinds said, “I think the charges of witch-hunting by the PPP has had the desired effect on its constituency. By slowing down the release, the government may in the end neutralize the witch-hunting charges leveled by the PPP.”
Last week, Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, said that while he understands that the public may be impatient, he is asking them to just wait a little bit longer. Government is expected to release numerous forensic audit reports in a matter of two weeks, he said.
He had promised that it will not be a second longer than this deadline.
Only four of the 50 forensic audit reports launched by Government have been released. These are the reports on the Marriott Hotel, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Carifesta X 2008 and the acquisition of the water cannon by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Some of the firms contracted to conduct the forensic audits included Nigel Hinds Financial Service, Ram and Mc Rae and HLB Seebarran and Co. Chartered Accountant Anand Goolsarran along with Harryman Parmesar were also contracted to conduct several forensic audits.
Nigel Hinds Financial Service earned some $25M for auditing agencies such as the Guyana Oil Company Limited (Guyoil), the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and the Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest).
Ram and McRae bagged some $20M for auditing the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Gold Board and the E-Governance Project among others.
It was in May that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars on 45 of the 50 forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
The remaining five audits were sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
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