Apr 03, 2016 News
– Ramjattan to make recommendations to cabinet on Tuesday
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
Were the forensic audit reports a waste of time and money; a mere strategy to confirm all that was suspected and reported on before; or were they just a means to comfort those who were enraged by the levels of corruption in the former government? Those are some of the questions in the minds of many observers and anti-corruption advocates, who are concerned that criminal charges are yet to be filed against anyone, although more than three months have passed since the first audit reports were released.
Some of the reports on the Marriott and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), directly recommended criminal charges against former public servants and government officials.
Criminal charges have been recommended against the former Chief Executive Officer, of NICIL, Winston Brassington. The recommended charges are in relation to several cases of fraud and corruption uncovered during the audit.
Also, a report of an audit conducted into the Marriott Hotel recommended charges for Brassington and all Cabinet members that served under the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic government during the construction of the hotel.
Brassington was allowed to skip the country subsequent to the release of the report.
While Cabinet has reviewed over 20 reports, only 16 have been released to the public.
Kaieteur News understands that a number of reports were handed over to the Ministry of Public Security to be perused by legal minds for irregularities of a criminal nature, before being forwarded to the police.
Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, had also indicated that Cabinet decided that a subcommittee would be formed to scrutinize some of the major forensic audit reports. The committee includes Ramjattan, Attorney General, Basil Williams and Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma.
That committee went through the reports to determine those that deal mainly with administrative irregularities and which enter the realm of criminality.
Contacted yesterday, Ramjattan indicated that he has completed his work on the reports. The Minister told Kaieteur News that he will present his findings and recommendations to Cabinet on Tuesday. He refused to give the slightest insight into his findings.
Initially, the Minister had said that matters of an administrative nature would require disciplinary action against those at fault while those of a criminal nature will be forwarded to the police for further investigations.
A forensic audit report prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, exposed how BaiShanLin Forest Development Inc. made swift moves to gain control of five major companies in the forestry sector.
These companies include Sherwood Forrest Inc, Haimorakabra Logging Co., Wood Associated Industries Co. Ltd., Puruni Woods Inc. and Kwebanna Wood Products Inc.
The forensic auditor noted however that there was no evidence that the approval of Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) was granted in relation to the change of ownership/control of these companies.
Goolsarran said that since the Forests Act prohibits the transfer of ownership/control of a forest concession without the specific approval of the Commission, then the five concessionaires that have transferred such control to BaiShanLin should be made to surrender their concessions to the Commission for reallocation to potential concessionaires.
Forensic auditors also found evidence which showed that the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) was illegally operating an accounting system.
The auditors of Nigel Hinds Financial Service noted in its recently released report on GEA that the entity was using an accounting software called “Peachtree” to automate and manage its accounting functions.
However, the agency does not have a license to use the Peachtree Accounting Software. The auditors found the use of the software in this manner to be illegal.
Auditors also found that the GEA has been using a highly compromised manual system to prepare and issues invoices for licences.
These include wholesale, retail, import, export, bulk transportation carriers, and storage licences.
They asserted that the generating and issuing of invoices for licensing fees are not governed by a standardized system and are not integrated in the agency’s accounting system.
The auditors in their report emphasized that this undermines the accounting department’s ability to effectively and efficiently monitor the financial transactions pertaining to revenue generated from licensing fees.
Additionally, the Fuel Marking Division of GEA has been found to be a haven for corruption of all sorts due to frail internal control systems. This was revealed by the forensic audit report prepared by Nigel Hinds Financial Services.
In fact, auditors stressed that the abuse of and non compliance with the rules and regulations of the programme is closely linked to high levels of fuel smuggling.
Given the state of affairs, the forensic auditors have recommended “strong disciplinary action” against GEA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Mahender Sharma for lax oversight of the fuel marking system.
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