Nov 16, 2016 News
A forensic audit report into the spending for the 2007 Cricket World Cup (CWC) is continuing to throw up a number of worrying findings.
In 2006, the administration under former President Bharrat Jagdeo took a decision to import 20 BMW vehicles for the event and for the Rio Conference that was to be held in Guyana in the same year.
After the decision by the Cabinet, a company named Prestige Motors Inc. was “conveniently incorporated” on December 6th, 2006. Later that same month or three weeks later, on December 29th, the company received a staggering $84M, representing half down-payment to bring in the 20 BMWs on behalf of the then Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
The other half was paid seven months later on July 28th, 2007. The Minister at the time was Dr. Frank Anthony.
According to a forensic audit report prepared by accountant John Barnes last December, the participation of Prestige Motors seemed “pre-arranged”, given the timing of the registration of the company.
The report is now in the hands of police after the Coalition Government, through its Cabinet, decided that enough indicators existed that warranted a criminal probe into the BMW deal and that of the entire World Cup spending by the Jagdeo-led administration.
Jagdeo ended his constitutional two terms in 2009, a period that was punctuated with scandals and a number of questionable state projects in which billions of tax dollars were spent.
Last year the coalition government under President David Granger ordered several forensic audits into a number of state agencies and projects which had over time been generating questions and concerns.
With regards to the BMW purchases and contract that was awarded, the forensic audit report could find little information.
What it did find was that the Secretary of Prestige Motors Inc. was Keith Evelyn of Hand-in-Hand Trust Corporation. The Managing Director was Vishok Persaud, of E-Networks. Persaud is the son of the late Reepu Persaud, who was a former Minister of Agriculture and a senior official of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
The forensic auditor attempted to track down Prestige Motors, but said that despite several requests to the Deeds Registry, he failed to obtain information on who the other directors were. The company has remained active.
Of the 20 BMW vehicles imported, 13 were sedans while the rest were sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
The auditor was able to acquire documents issued by Prestige Motors Inc. to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, showing that the importation of the vehicles, including dealer, handling and port fees would cost US$817,600 or G$168.8M.
The report has said that months after the World Cup in 2007, in which a number of Super Eight matches were played in Guyana, Jagdeo and his Cabinet decided to sell 11 of the vehicles – 10 of them were sedans.
The rest were kept for use by the Government.
However, one of the SUVs is missing and it is more than certain the investigators will be looking for it.
The entire spending for CWC was riddled with problems. The country was never told exactly how much was spent by the then Government, despite numerous calls.
The auditor found boxes of receipts, but they were badly damaged by water.
CWC officials claimed they handed over financial reports to the ministry, but there was little evidence of where those reports are.
The auditor found that the management of the vehicles and decision to dispose of a number of them were murky in the details.
While a number of the vehicles were registered to particular ministries, they were found elsewhere at other Government entities.
“The licence records held by GRA were not helpful in this regard, since there are vehicles that continue to be licensed in the name of a particular Ministry without any letter of authorization being sent to GRA by the Ministry concerned.”
The purchasers of the high-end vehicles, which were almost new, included National Hardware, Auto Supplies, King’s Jewellery World, Friendship Oxygen, Noor Rahaman and Lorenzo Alphonso.
The proposed sale of the BMW vehicles was reportedly first advertised in the Sunday April 9, 2007 issue of the Guyana Chronicle.
According to the report, several persons tendered for the vehicles, and bids of $16.1M , $10.5M and $11M were made by Ramesh Dookhoo of the Private Sector Commission, Terrence Paton, and Clinton Williams of GNIC. Dookhoo tendered for a SUV, while Paton and Williams tendered for sedans.
However, according to the audit report, no sale was made to the three even though “official” acceptance of their bids was communicated to them.
A letter from the then Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon dated January 22, 2008, authorised new sale prices – the sedans for $9M and the SUV for $11M.
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