Junior Minister of Finance Jaipaul Sharma said that some of the most glaring irregularities have been unearthed at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB).
Sharma told Kaieteur News that of all the forensic audits which were conducted, the instances of suspected fraud were many and should be easy for the investigating authorities to bring criminal charges against those that are implicated.
It was for this reason that the audit report into that entity was not released to the public, according to Sharma.
He stated that should the report be released there is every possibility that persons will take flight from the jurisdiction to evade prosecution. The economist explained that there were systemic and continued malpractices at that entity.
A number of senior as well as auxiliary staff have been fingered in malfeasance and major moves can be expected soon.
Sharma said that many of those that have been fingered may no longer be under the employ of the GRDB. He did say that many senior staff have been involved in suspicious undertakings and that this may have been going on for some time.
Further there were even instances where auxiliary staff dabbled in questionable dealings. Sharma said that it might have been that they did not know what they were involved with and could have been heeding the instructions of their superiors.
However, Sharma said that it is left to the police and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to determine and that the public should be patient with the investigation.
Added to that there are other entities that have been fingered that may have been colluding with those involved in irregularities at the GRDB. Sharma explained that even sections of the Ministry of Agriculture have been implicated in this investigation and there is a lot of work that is invested into an investigation of this magnitude.
Upon entering Government in May 2015, the David Granger-led administration immediately ordered a forensic audit into the GRDB which is the authority charged with overseeing the rice industry throughout the country.
More than six years ago, Guyana entered a ground-breaking agreement with Venezuela trading rice for oil.
Under the agreement, Guyana would advance a portion of the oil money on every shipment to Venezuela and pay the rest over a number of years at a minimal interest rate. The money to be paid to Venezuela was kept in special accounts.
Guyana in turn shipped hundreds of thousands of tonnes of paddy and white rice and would ever so often cancel out the payments.
It appeared that GRDB kept large sums of money in its accounts, lending some of it out without proper paperwork.
Additionally, over a three to four-year period, more than US$500M from the Petro Caribe proceeds (Venezuela rice-for-oil deal) would have passed through the accounts of the entity. Among some of the “anomalies” found were loans without proper paperwork or promissory notes.
There were other instances of persons in the agency using GRDB monies to trade in foreign currency.
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