Sep 11, 2016 News
Evidence overwhelming enough to win several cases without witnesses – Goolsarran
“The Government has displayed a high degree of reluctance, for reasons best known to it, in terms of taking appropriate actions in cases where acts of criminality and other forms of misdemeanour have been uncovered in the forensic audit reports.”
It was Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan who gave the nation a solemn promise on New Year’s Day, that former Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh will face the music for his gross financial transgressions.
At that time, he insisted that Dr. Singh’s case would be reopened, as he refuses to “allow those PPP culprits to break the law and get away with it.”
In fact, he had said, “If we don’t set an example, then this nonsense will continue. This financial lawlessness has to change. We saw under the PPP, the lawless spending of taxpayers’ monies in defiance of the laws. It just cannot go down as though it is okay, or else we would be saying too that this is the norm, and our own will think they can do the same and everything will be as cool as cucumbers.”
Nine months later, the AFC Leader is singing a completely different tune.
At his party’s press conference on Friday, Ramjattan was asked by Kaieteur News, if given the stumbling blocks he is facing with the forensic audits, he would still pursue the Ashni Singh case.
The politician stated that the matter would have to be placed on the back burner as cogent witnesses to the building of the case “are scared to death” to offer evidence in court.
The Public Security Minister said, “The stumbling block in Ashni Singh’s case is people not wanting to give written statements. As was mentioned earlier, you can give a lot of the evidence to an auditor but when it comes to criminal prosecutions, you have to do the written statements, and some of these persons who have to give evidence and testify, when they know what the investigations are all about, have been telling some of the policemen that they are scared to death.”
The AFC Leader continued, “And we do not have a witness protection plan. We have now gotten a Bill for that. And that Bill will soon go to parliament. We are trying our best to persuade these very vital witnesses who have the convincing evidence to please talk”.
He added, “We are given a multiplicity of reasons why some of them are not coming forward. But you can’t go and beat a person in the head and tell them go and testify or give a police statement… Once this could be overcome then certainly we can go into investigations into all these people.”
Ramjattan also reminded that while in opposition he had filed a complaint with the Guyana Police Force against Dr. Singh over the unlawful spending of $4.5B from the nation’s coffers. But the matter was one which was plagued by delays on the part of the Police Force.
Ramjattan was later asked to prepare an extensive report showing how the Finance Minister could be charged. From the standpoint of criminal proceedings, the matter died a natural death.
It was then taken up by former Opposition Leader, David Granger. He was represented in the High Court by Basil Williams who now serves as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs. Former Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang ruled that the $4.5B spending by Dr. Singh was unconstitutional.
Justice Chang had told Kaieteur News that while he was criticized for not declaring sanctions, it should be noted that it is not his business to deliver disciplinary measures against the defaulters. He said that is the responsibility of the National Assembly. He had said, too, that the only option would be for APNU+AFC to take the case up in a criminal proceeding.
Ramjattan’s recent comments regarding Dr. Singh’s case, do not sit well with several anti-corruption activists. They believe that Government overall, is making “silly excuses” as to why they cannot go after Dr. Singh.
They recalled that it was pointed out by Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran that the former Minister of Finance committed gross constitutional and legislative violations when he authorized $4.554 billion to be issued from the Consolidated Fund without parliamentary approval.
In this regard, anti-corruption activists are asking for Ramjattan to point out what witnesses he has difficulty accessing while going after Dr. Singh on a matter that occurred before the entire nation.
They said, “Is the Court ruling on the matter not enough evidence to prosecute? And don’t we have copies of the financial papers presented to the National Assembly to attest to the constitutional violation?”
Additionally, Goolsarran had recently emphasized that Dr. Singh violated the nation’s budget laws and related constitutional requirements. He said, “Dr. Singh has also violated Section 77 Fiscal Management and Accountability Act which states that a Minister or an official shall not make a gift of public property unless the making of the gift is expressly authorised by law”.
In this regard, Goolsarran explained that the former Minister authorised the transferred State lands to NICIL by way of a deed of gift. NICIL in turn sold the lands to third parties. He said that Singh abused Section 8 of the Public Corporations Act 1988 by signing vesting orders for the transfer of State lands from NICIL to third parties. Goolsarran made it clear that Section 8 was not made applicable to NICIL.
Further, Goolsarran said that as Chairman of NICIL, Ashni Singh oversaw the creation of a parallel treasury at NICIL and was complicit in the diversion of State revenues into NICIL’s coffers to be used for various projects and activities not authorized by Parliament.
He said that these include the construction of the Marriott Hotel, expenditure on Amaila Falls, Pradoville Two and the Berbice River Bridge.
The Chartered Accountant said that these are violations of Articles 216 and 217 of the Constitution.
“We still have the abandoned 44 High Street property which was constructed at a cost of $346.417 million using diverted funds from NICIL, not to mention significant sums remaining unaccounted for in respect of the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Carifesta X and hinterland roads,” the former Auditor General stated.
He said, “All in all, the anti-corruption advocates feel very much disappointed that the Government initiated numerous forensic audits and when the results were presented, there is a display of unwillingness to move forward, as evidenced by Ramjattan’s recent statement.”
According to Goolsarran, “the Government has displayed a high degree of reluctance, for reasons best known to it, in terms of taking appropriate actions in cases where acts of criminality and other forms of misdemeanour have been uncovered in the forensic audit reports.”
The former auditor general is also of the firm conviction that “the evidence against Dr. Singh is overwhelming enough for Government to win several cases without the witnesses Ramjattan said he is so dependent on.”
The anti-corruption advocate said that the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) is trying its best with limited staffing and resources. He insisted however that it needs the tangible support of the Government to go after those who have raided the Treasury and mismanaged the resources of the State.
He added that it is pointless creating SOCU to satisfy the Financial Action Task Force requirements, and then in turn treat it as a step-child, starved of resources and support for its work, which evidently is the case.
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