– Board members seem uninterested in bringing wrongdoers to justice –Goolsarran
Even with a new administration in place, the installment of different board members, and a detailed forensic audit report exposing the company’s weaknesses, local critics still believe that the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has not changed its face.
In fact, it is over a year and the entity essentially remains shrouded in the secrecy that had been detested during the previous regime.
The NICIL Board Members include Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Board Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle and Head of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham.
Kaieteur News tried relentlessly to contact the Chairman as well as Minister Harmon on a number of issues relating to the entity. But all efforts over the past weeks proved futile. Meanwhile, Wickham asked that all questions be directed to the Chairman.
When he was first appointed to the post in August last year, the Chairman of the Board had made a commitment that NICIL would be run in an entirely different manner.
Last year in an interview with this newspaper, Odle bemoaned the fact that under the previous administration, the entity was run with little to no transparency and accountability for investment decisions. He also spoke against the way in which taxpayers were kept in the dark on the happenings of the state-owned company.
One year later, under Odle’s directive, NICIL is being accused of keeping the nation “in the dark” as it relates to how reforms have been made by the company under the new administration and the status regarding the millions of dollars in debt it is owed by various agencies.
Furthermore, the Chairman had given his support for the release of the Marriott Hotel contract. But even though he had said that NICIL is in possession of the document, it is still to be released under his watch.
Additionally, meaningful reforms recommended for NICIL in a forensic audit report are yet to be implemented. 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, had said that the Board is awaiting the completion of two other audits as instructed by Cabinet.
The status of these audits is yet to be made public.
In the forensic audit report which was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, it was recommended that the entity be closed down and a small department 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.
Meanwhile, Goolsarran told this newspaper yesterday that he is deeply disappointed that recommendations to shut down NICIL have not been implemented. He reminded that it was this very administration which had at one time, called for the closure of NICIL when it sat on the opposition benches.
The former Auditor General stated that this new Government had given the commitment that it would not use NICIL in an abusive manner.
“However, what Government must see is the bigger picture. What will happen when there is another government in place? Too late shall be the cry then. It is a grave disappointment and NICIL should without question be brought to a halt. It practically allows too many avenues for eerie forms of corruption which the nation has witnessed under the previous administration,” expressed Goolsarran.
The anti-corruption activist also said that the forensic audit which he prepared provides irrefutable grounds which show how financial lawlessness took place at unimaginable scales at the entity.
In this regard, Goolsarran expressed that he is in agreement with other financial minds who believe that the NICIL Board seems uninterested in going after those persons who committed grave acts within the state-owned entity.
Goolsarran recalled that it was since last year December that a Cabinet decision was made for NICIL’s former CEO, Winston Brassington and his Deputy, Marcia Nadir-Sharma to be sent on leave pending the outcome of investigations.
The former Auditor General said it is troubling that eight months later, not a word has been said by NICIL to the nation regarding the status of these investigations. He stressed that NICIL needs to remove itself from the veil of secrecy.
Goolsarran nevertheless maintained that “NICIL has been at the centre of some of the worst corrupt acts of our time and it must be closed down.”
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