Apr 09, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The abuse of power for private gain, the mismanagement of the nation’s resources and the disregard for
discretion and the law of the day, have all been highlighted by the 16 forensic audits Government has released thus far.
Anti-corruption advocates say that the coalition has indeed made a step in the right direction with the launch of the audits and its efforts thus far can be applauded, but there is a more important task ahead.
They say that Government must quit dragging its feet and act on the damning cases of corruption which have been highlighted in the reports.
They say that it will be one of the surest ways for President David Granger to demonstrate that his “zero-tolerance approach to corruption” which he promised to adopt was more than an election campaign promise.
One such critic who holds firm to the view of that the promise was more than a campaign issue is Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Dr. David Hinds.
The University professor said that Government has to muster the will to act on corruption period. He said that it has to stop procrastinating. The Executive Member of the WPA said that the audit reports are in the public domain and some of the evidence is damning.
He commented that the nation is aware also that there have been recommendations from the auditors for charges to be laid as it is with the case of the audit on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Dr. Hinds said, “We know that the auditors’ reports are before the Cabinet. The President has made
statements on the matter—his latest is that the government does not shoot from the hip. But what is lacking in all of this is a clear statement on what the government intends to do with the evidence it has at its disposal.”
The Executive Member of the WPA added, “The longer the government takes to act, the more the perception builds up that it does not want to rock the boat. In the meantime it allows the spotlight to shift away from corruption by the previous government to the misdeeds in its own ranks.”
The University professor recalled the instances of Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, making statements to the effect that he is the real anti-corruption czar and that he would move swiftly against corruption perpetrated under this government.
Dr. Hinds said that the inference is that the current government is either involved in corruption or encouraging it. The Executive Member of the WPA said that in politics, if you have the initiative and you fail to use it sensibly, then you eventually lose it.
“We may well find that the government may end up having to own some of the corruption it inherited. The government is guilty of not acting decisively on this matter and is in the process undermining itself and its ability to act as an anti-corruption agent. I say start with the most blatant instances of corruption and over-reach,” asserted Dr. Hinds.
So far, Government has released 16 forensic audits some of which include audits of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the Marriott Hotel and the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA).
With regard to the findings noted in the GFC report, it is clear that the Granger administration will have to make a crucial decision on whether it will bring the hammer down on a Chinese company found with a history of corruption in Guyana, or continue to treat with it, diplomatically.
The GFC forensic audit report was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran. It documents numerous irregularities which go as far back as 2006, when BaiShanLin International Forest Development Inc was incorporated.
In his forensic audit report, Goolsarran exposed how the Chinese company 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 specific approval of the GFC was granted in relation to the change of ownership/control of these companies.
He argued that in the circumstances, the holders of the Timber Sales Agreements should have surrendered their authorizations to the Commission.
He emphasized that these companies hold TSAs covering a total of 441,119 hectares. This means that BaiShanLin had access to a total of 627,072 hectares of State Forest.
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 ownership or control to the officials of BaiShanLin should be made to surrender their concessions to the Commission for reallocation to other potential concessionaires.
Goolsarran also recommended that all state forest owned by the company should be returned to the Commission for reallocation.
In addition to this, he said that the coalition administration should consider terminating the investment agreements with the company and recover the value of the fiscal concessions granted to it.
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