Minister of State Joseph Harmon yesterday received the report from the Board of Inquiry, which was established to probe allegations of wrongdoing at the Guyana Oil Company Limited (GuyOil). The report was handed over
by Chairman of the Board, recently retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Winston Cosbert.
President David Granger had mandated that the Board of Inquiry investigate allegations of criminality, malpractice and mismanagement in the acquisition of fuel by GuyOil and the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA). The review covered the period from November 10, 2015 to March 19, 2016.
According to the Ministry of the Presidency, Minister Harmon, in accepting the report, said that it will assist the administration in determining what course of action should be taken going forward. He has committed to presenting the report to Cabinet so that the Government can be informed of its findings and determine whether corrective measures need to be taken.
The Board also comprised Julius Wright and Edgar Thomas.
In late February, more than seven months after being sent on leave, Managing Director of the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil), Badrie Persaud, was sacked.
GuyOil’s Board of Directors, in a statement, had made it clear that it had no confidence in the official’s ability to execute his duties “honestly, objectively and efficiently”.
According to the statement, the board along with Nigel Hinds and Associates Financial Services, reviewed the 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 Granger-led 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.
With gas stations stretching across the coasts, the state-owned GuyOil since established in the 70’s, is now handling between $400M to $500M weekly in sales. However, there have been allegations of corruption, with questions over the procurement and sales.
Persaud was sent off on leave in early July, amidst a shakeup at that state-owned entity.
Government sources, then, had confirmed that Persaud, a candidate for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in the May 2015 General Elections, was sent on about seven months’ leave that he had accrued.
At the time, GuyOil had been under scrutiny for several weeks, after Government reportedly unearthed a scam where persons not working with the ministries and state agencies, were collecting gas from the entity’s service stations.
Harmon at the time had revealed that investigators had vehicle numbers and names of persons involved. He said that there was a window of opportunity for them to pay the bill at GuyOil or the matter would be handed over to the police for its attention.
There are also emerging indications that there was a scam where GuyOil officials were accused of selling fuel to preferred customers, and buying it back at a higher price when supplies ran low.
GuyOil had that advantage as it sells the cheapest fuel in the country.
The report which was handed over yesterday was supposed to examine, specifically, allegations that there were irregularities in the purchasing of fuel by GEA on behalf GuyOil.
Guyana has been buying fuel from Trinidad for GuyOil after an arrangement with Venezuela fell through amidst a diplomatic border controversy.
It was reported that questions were raised after ships that were hired to bring fuel to Guyana were also transporting for other persons. It was also alleged that GuyOil picked up the entire tab.
Fuel smuggling has been a major problem for authorities in recent years.
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