Apr 10, 2016 News
…Explains why no recommendations were made to sanction GFC Boss and others
“One can obviously conclude that they (GFC) closed their eyes to what was going on but there is no evidence to tie them down to the decisions made because what I observed was that there was heavy political influence in the GFC from the former Minister responsible for forestry, Robert Persaud and the now Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.”
By: Kiana Wilburg
With all the instances of corruption he uncovered at the Guyana Forestry Commission, (GFC) forensic auditor, Anand Goolsarran made no recommendation for the Board or the GFC Boss, James Singh to face any sanction.
He had done so in his forensic audit report on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Asked to explain why this was not done, Goolsarran told Kaieteur News that he could not find a “single piece of concrete evidence” which actually implicated a specific individual at GFC in the irregularities he cited in his report.
The Chartered Accountant said, “I am aware Government replaced the Board for the Forestry Commission. But I have to say that there was no concrete evidence to show that James Singh, for example, took decisions by himself.
“They were made by the former Board. I did not have hard or concrete evidence that there were irregularities carried out single-handedly by the Board.”
Goolsarran added, “One can obviously conclude that they closed their eyes to what was going on but there is no evidence to tie them down to the decisions made because what I observed was that there was heavy political influence in the GFC from the former Minister responsible for forestry, Robert Persaud and even Bharrat Jagdeo.”
The forensic auditor said that based on the documents he saw, the former Board was “pressed to do things” and complied. “I suppose they did it with a heavy heart,” Goolsarran added.
Goolsarran was then asked to say why he did not recommend sanctions for the former Board members as he did in the case of the NICIL report.
He said that the situations and circumstances in those two entities were very different. In the case of NICIL, the forensic auditor said that there were clear instances where it could be seen that officials took it upon themselves to misuse taxpayers’ moneys. He said, too, that there were blatant cases where assets of the state were misappropriated.
Goolsarran said that same concrete evidence could not be found in the case of GFC. “Besides, how does one discipline Board members who are no longer there? But listen, I have made it clear that BaiShanLin has failed to fulfill its obligations and Government should pull the plug on the company. It is necessary.
“There was indeed political interference in GFC because we see in a number of cases that BaiShanLin should be writing the GFC Board but is instead writing directly to the former Prime Minister, Sam Hinds on certain matters.”
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 forests owned by the company should be returned to the Commission for reallocation.
In addition, 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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