Jun 18, 2016 News
… Chairman/Board await outcome of two other audits
Even though the forensic audit report on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited
(NICIL) has been released for over six months, meaningful reforms are yet to be made on the entity. Kaieteur News was able to confirm this with several officials working with the entity.
Asked to explain why this is the case, NICIL Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle, said that the Board is awaiting the completion of two other audits as instructed by Cabinet.
Odle said, “We are waiting on two additional audits. Cabinet had said that following the initial audit which was done by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, two others should be done; one was a transactional audit and the other was to be done by the AG so we are waiting on that to know what sort of reforms we are going to make and the Board is meeting next week to discuss this very matter.”
He said that even though the two audits are not complete, the Board is expected to meet next week to discuss the way forward and to consider what actions should be taken on a number of issues.
The NICIL Chairman was then asked to say why the entity is advertising for a new CEO at this time since reforms are yet to be made and the prospective person would be left to take over an entity riddled with financial troubles.
“We are trying. We are trying to look at policies in the meantime to help who ever that person is going to be. In our Board meetings we have been trying to rectify policies and some areas where procedures are identified to be irregular. We are still to put together a blueprint on the reforms needed for the entity but that will be partly informed by the outcome of the audits,” Odle expressed.
In Goolsarran’s forensic audit report, it was recommended that the entity be closed down and a small department be opened under the Ministry of Finance, if Government deems it necessary.
It was explained that the reason for such a recommendation was premised on the fact that NICIL was initially established for the purpose of privatization of state assets. That was done in two phases in the 1990s.
Since that phase ended years ago, the report recommends that there is no need for NICIL to remain a company. It says that it should be liquidated and Government should make moves to establish a department to manage the assets being held by the company.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan said, however, that he is not inclined to go this route and has since made it clear that the entity is necessary.
Since the launch of a forensic audit into the operations of NICIL, several glaring breaches of the country’s financial regulations have been unearthed.
The audit, Kaieteur News understands, categorically states that there was misuse of public monies by several office holders. It said, too, that they played an important role in one way or the other in providing the conditions necessary for some of the “unimaginable scales of corruption” to take place on the NICIL platform.
Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, noted that the report on the forensic audit speaks to three sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) 2003.
He said that the audit justifies holding specific officials liable for misuse of public monies. Section 48 of the FMAA says, “A Minister or official shall not in any manner misuse, misapply, or improperly dispose of public monies.”
Section 85, he said, also outlines what can be deemed as the liability of an official. That section of the Act says that an official who falsifies any account, statement, receipt or other record issued or kept for the purposes of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, the Regulations, the Finance Circulars or any other instrument made under the Act; conspires or colludes with any other person to defraud the State or make opportunity for any person to defraud the State; or knowingly permits any other person to contravene any provision of this Act, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable on conviction to a fine of $2 million and to imprisonment for three years.
The report also speaks to the liability for loss of public monies at NICIL as it refers to Section 49 of the Act, which says that if a loss of public monies should occur and, at the time of that loss, a Minister or official has caused or contributed to that loss through misconduct or through deliberate or serious disregard of reasonable standards of care, that Minister or official shall be personally liable to the Government for the amount of the loss.
Minister Sharma confirmed that there were various cases of public loss of monies at NICIL by certain officials, and that government has a responsibility to respect and follow through on the recommendations of strict penalties against those implicated. Sharma said, “NICIL was being run in a haphazard way and made dangerous decisions that cost the company millions of dollars in losses. It placed the then government in a bad place. NICIL really was operating as the PPP’s greatest force in making corrupt acts realized.”
His position is one that was vehemently advocated by the APNU+AFC coalition when it was in opposition, especially in the lead-up to the May 2015 General and Regional Elections. Politicians on both sides unanimously agreed for NICIL to be restructured, and in various instances underscored the need for it to be closed down.
With a new Board and Chairman in place, the government called on Winston Brassington NICIL’s former CEO to explain the entity’s investments into all projects over the years. He was also expected to state, honestly, the position of the company’s assets.
The paper has since been submitted and the Board is perusing it to make a decision on the way forward with the company and Brassington.
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