Latest update March 24th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jun 17, 2016 News
…says findings of forensic audit reports are “alarming”
By Kiana Wilburg
“If I as a public servant can dip into the US Department of Treasury, then stick the money in my pocket, walk away and I am never penalized or convicted, then what’s to stop my colleagues from doing the same?”
This was the perspective posed by US envoy Bryan Hunt, as he sought to show how important it is for the Guyana Government to take action against those who stole or mismanaged state assets as documented in several forensic audit reports.
In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Hunt said that he is indeed “alarmed” at the findings of the forensic audits which were launched by the coalition administration.
Hunt said that he is worried anytime he observes the level of deep-seated corruption and lack of procedures that apparently existed.
The Outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission, who has served in Guyana for three years, said that he is not going to take a view on who is responsible for the state of affairs. He commented that that is for the courts and law enforcement officials to determine.
Hunt said, however, that the fact that the audits have unearthed so many irregularities is alarming to him, given that he represents a major international donor to Guyana.
“And I would hope it is alarming to every Guyanese taxpayer, because a lot of that is basically your money that went missing which should have been used appropriately to benefit the people,” the official added.
Hunt asserted that while Government needs to allow law enforcement to do their investigations, he is not suggesting in any way that the process of doing so needs to be rushed.
The US diplomat said, “It has to be done systematically and the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) needs to do its investigations. We need to develop solid evidence that can successfully prosecute and convict those who were responsible for the irregularities and the missing money.”
Hunt added, “I mean, we love to use the word irregularities, but what we are really talking about is theft. We need to figure out who stole the money. We need to figure out where it is and prosecute those people and if you recover any money, then it is even better. I would love to see money brought back into the state treasury, but I think first and foremost you have got to convict those responsible. If you don’t, then there is no deterrent…”
While noting that Government should make moves to prosecute those who were found to have been involved in various financial irregularities, the Outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission articulated that focus should also be placed on determining the vulnerabilities in the system “that allowed persons to be able to walk into a ministry and drive off with vehicles.”
The US Envoy said, “We need to figure out what were the vulnerabilities that allowed someone to just issue a contract to a friend who never fulfilled the contract and then there were no penalties. We need to figure out what vulnerabilities allowed someone to take bribes in their office; that allowed them to take resources belonging to the state.”
Hunt emphasized that these are hard questions that the Government must ask, and if it takes going to Parliament to change the laws to remove weaknesses in state entities, then so be it.
He opined that while every gap would not be found, the audits are a good place to start. Hunt also commented that the Government needs to empower the Auditor General’s Office so that audits can be carried out effectively on an annual basis on every state agency.
The US diplomat said that this would ensure that vulnerabilities are found early and can therefore be rectified as soon as possible. The envoy said that failure to do this would only breed even more serious problems for Guyana.
Hunt is nonetheless confident that the current Government will make a difference in this regard.
“I am very confident that this Government understands everything I just said, and I am very confident that they are moving forward in a way that is going to result in those who are responsible for theft of state resources being prosecuted, and that they are moving forward to identify what the gaps were in those agencies and plug them.”
Hunt continued, “You all in the press and I have had the opportunity of seeing some of these audits and some of them are not very easy to read through. So it is not surprising that it will take some time to come to a conclusion. But I am quite confident that we have a government in place that understands all this and will do the right things to make sure that those guilty are held accountable, and definitely reform the system.”
It was in May 2015 that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars on 45 of the 50 forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
The remaining five audits were sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Over 20 forensic audit reports have been released thus far for the public to peruse.
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Lies, Lies, Lies!!!
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it seems like just the other day mr hunt came to guyana
he is a no nonsense guy
thanks for your services sir
it is only when the usa uk and canada speak out dat anyting in guyana gets done
So True, I suggest that these three countries talk everyday and all day long so that action can and will be taken.
Agreed….can’t be said in more clearer terms….
I am very upset over the culture of corruption that was nurtured over the past 2 decades. I am equally disturbed that the courts and law enforcement agencies may not be prepared/willing to stand up and do their lawful duties.
KN says that “… he is not suggesting in any way that the process of doing so needs to be rushed ….’
US Deputy Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt himself said that “… We need to develop solid evidence that can successfully prosecute and convict those who were responsible for the irregularities and the missing money.”
It is unfair to say that the current government is refusing to prosecute.
I am sure that Mr Granger has discussed this with the official before.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan begs to differ with you, GTLoyal. On May 23, 2016, the local dailies reported him as saying the lack of a witness protection program is hindering the prosecution of cases identified by audits, since witnesses are too fearful to testify.
As for Granger, his take on audits was clearly spelled out: they provide a picture of the country’s financial state.
Some people foolishly think critics are advocating jail time for the thieves, which may serve as a deterrent, but some of us think the country would be better served if the billions stolen are returned.
So, you see, all this nonsense about being patient and building solid cases, is just that: NONSENSE!
“… the lack of a witness protection program is hindering …” Hindering, not paralyzing. Not stopping.
“As for Granger, his take on audits was clearly spelled out: they provide a picture of the country’s financial state.”
Isn’t that true? They do. He undoubtedly also know that the law has to take its course. But as Mr Hunt said “I have had the opportunity of seeing some of these audits and some of them are not very easy to read through.” That means time will be needed.
Politicians’ main aim is winning elections, so as election draws closer things will happen … and many will be disqualified or barred from participating because of these cases.
Now, do the law enforcement agencies and/or the judicial arm of the government have to wait on the executive arm of the government to give the go ahead to pursue those who have broken the law as the audits suggest? In these cases the audits reports are being made public.
Yes, they are refusing to prosecute and is also afraid
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” This is a quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall but attributed to Monsieur Voltaire. At the moment it defines clearly my position with respect to your comment.