Latest update March 24th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jun 16, 2016 News
Head of the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU), Valmiki Singh, is expected to write a
statement to Minister of Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, in an effort to set the record straight on a number of shady actions that implicated him during his management of the Unit.
In a brief telephone interview last night, Hughes said that she is concerned with the findings of the report which was prepared by the auditors attached to Ram and McRae, Chartered Accountants. She noted that while the NFMU is without a board at the moment, a statement on the way forward will be provided by next week.
The Telecommunications Minister was asked to say whether Singh’s statements would determine whether he will continue in his post or relieved of his duties. Hughes said that she would not enter the realm of speculation. She added that that matter is not being considered at the moment.
The Minister maintained that Singh was asked to defend the findings identified in the forensic audit report on the Unit, and part of her statement will be informed by his response.
The forensic audit report had cited numerous areas where Singh was found in breach of financial laws.
Based on its examination of the employees’ personal records at NFMU, forensic auditors found for example, that there was “gross abuse” Singh, regarding the annual leave system.
In the audit report, the forensic team from Ram and McRae said that records show that Singh sought and obtained payment for leave not taken over an 11-year period.
The auditors said that the NFMU Head did so less than two weeks before the May 11, 2015 elections. At that time, they said that he wrote a letter to Dr. Roger Luncheon, former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, requesting payment for what he claimed to be 326 leave days accumulated over the years between January, 2004 and December 2014.
They said that attached to the letter was a computation of Mr. Singh’s outstanding leave days which was prepared by the NFMU’s Finance Controller.
The auditors however, noted that the unavailability of documented application and approval of the leave carryover prevented any effort to verify the accuracy of the number of accumulated leave days.
The forensic auditing team said that under the Public Service Rules, leave may be deferred and added to the following year’s vacation. The deferral was “required in writing”.
Dr. Luncheon approved Mr. Singh’s request via letter dated April 30, 2015 and a total of $6.7 million was remitted to Mr. Singh after income tax totaling $2.9 million was deducted from the gross amount of $9.6 million.
The auditors said that it is considered dangerous to the organization as well as unhealthy for individuals, particularly those in a position of trust and responsibility, not to take their annual leave. They therefore recommended that this practice be discontinued forthwith.
They also recommended that the services of the Accountant be otherwise utilized or transferred since his only responsibility was to manage the expenses of other government entities, a practice which the auditors believe should cease.
In another instance, it appeared as though Singh thought that he had more power than was actually allocated to him as Head of the National Frequency Management Unit. Auditors said that perhaps, the organizational structure of the entity contributed to him acting outside of his authority in various instances.
The auditors noted that while the Minister who has oversight for the NFMU, is the person designated to determine the remuneration of persons employed, after consultation with the relevant union, Singh who was only the Managing Director, arbitrarily determined the salaries of his workers.
The auditors revealed that NFMU was established as a “corporation sole”. This means that the entity does not have a Board like other companies would. It meant that the Managing Director operates as the Board.
Ram and McRae auditors also commented that such an organizational form is subject to minimal accountability and is precluded from benefitting from the range of skills typical of a Corporation with a Board of Directors.
Given the nature and scope of the work required to be done by the NFMU, the auditors emphasized that this type of organizational structure is completely inappropriate. As such, they recommended that it be governed by a Board of Directors with a range of skills and qualifications and offering some insulation of the management from the political functionaries.
They said that the entity’s only reporting obligation is to a Minister of the Government, who, for much of the NFMU’s existence, has been the President, which, even with delegation does not offer sufficient opportunities for oversight and consultations.
The auditors revealed, too, that while such a Corporation may employ a Secretary, and other officers and employees it considers necessary, their remuneration and terms and conditions of employment are to be determined or varied by the Minister.
They said that the Minister is required to consult with the trade union, which represents the majority of officers or class of employees, and the Corporation in setting the terms and conditions of employment.
The forensic auditing team noted however that except for the position of the Managing Director, this requirement has not been complied with. In this regard, the auditors highlighted that Singh took it upon himself to establish the remuneration packages for other levels of employees. The auditors said that Singh acted ultra vires, that is, outside of his legal power.
Lies, Lies, Lies!!!
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