Jan 16, 2017 News
By: Kiana Wilburg
How can the current administration confidently declare that it will hold its own officials accountable for their actions, when it is unable to do the same in the case of past officials?
This is the question many anti-corruption advocates have been asking since the coalition administration released more than 30 forensic audit reports.
Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, believes that it is still possible to hold the feet of current officials to the fire, despite being unable at the moment, to prosecute those of the past who have committed certain acts as revealed by the damning forensic audits.
Ramjattan stressed that the major difficulty plaguing the use of the forensic audit reports for the purpose of prosecution is the fear of key witnesses in giving testimonies to the police and in the court.
“When it comes to these past officials, we have had much difficulty because of the character and nature of the people who have to go and give the evidence. People say they are scared and fear that their lives may be put in danger. Some gave statements, but are terrified of going to court.”
He said, “…We might have to wait a time for people to come forward in the case of these forensic audits. It is just like how we are solving crimes like that of Babita Sarjou because people came forward sometime after. Some of these witnesses in the case of the forensic audits were close to those guys, so what you are going to do? Hit them on the head for them to testify? So that is the difficulty…”
The Minister of Public Security also emphasized that the “primary” purpose of the forensic audits was to see what the PPP administration did wrong.
“Even though we have found that, people are unhappy that we are not jailing those past officials. And we are getting lots of blows for that. They are not happy with what the audits uncovered…”
While Ramjattan holds this view, many critics opined that Guyanese feel a sense of betrayal that when it comes to the forensic audits, which have cost Guyana millions of tax payers’ dollars.
Critics stressed that the citizenry was promised action on the corruption that was unearthed and to date there has been none.
It was in May 2015 that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133 million of taxpayers’ monies 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).
Some of the firms contracted to conduct the forensic audits included Nigel Hinds Financial Service, Ram and Mc Rae and HLB Seebarran and Co. Chartered Accountant Anand Goolsarran along with Harryman Parmesar were also contracted to conduct several forensic audits.
Nigel Hinds Financial Service earned some $25M for auditing agencies such as the Guyana Oil Company Limited (Guyoil), the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and the Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest).
Ram and McRae bagged some $20M for auditing the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Gold Board and the E-Governance Project among others.
Several audits were also launched in July 2015 while others started in later weeks of that year. While the report on NICIL has been completed for months now, criminal proceedings are still to take shape. Those on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) have been completed for a longer period.
The forensic audit into the NFMU has unearthed “some of the most appalling acts of corruption”, according to Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Sharma said, “There was just no proper management at this unit. There were instances where you could see that they just lost out on millions of dollars’ worth in fees that they should have ensured they collected. There were some defaulters as well, and the agency just took no action against them.”
“(NFMU) could have collected a lot more revenue. Instead (the entity) allowed a lot of favouritism to take place and as such they lost, I would say, millions of dollars in revenue.
“They allowed their big PPP boys to slip under the radar while others were called upon to pay their dues. In fact, they weren’t collecting from two of their PPP big boys for some time. It was a lot of unfairness that was going on at that agency.”
Sharma had said, “The level of corruption which was taking place at the agency points to the incompetency of those who are managing it.”
The Junior Finance Minister said that the revelations of some of the forensic audits thus far, vindicate the concerns the APNU+AFC had regarding the lack of accountability under the previous administration as well as the stench of corruption in some agencies.
As for the forensic audit launched into the EPA, Sharma had said that it uncovered that the entity has been holding some 15 accounts with over $400M.
Kaieteur News understands that recommendations were made for the monies to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund.
The Forensic audit revealed that the agency was apparently receiving monies from various agencies and opening a new account every time it received large sums.
Sharma explained that the agency should not have done that. He said that it should have held one account and categorized its expenses.
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