By Brushell Blackman
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan says that criminal charges will be brought against a number of officials including People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) former Government Ministers, next week.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, Ramjattan said that the Special Organised Crimes Unit (SOCU) has completed its investigation into the operations of the National Investment and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL).
He said that SOCU’s recommendations and that case file are now attracting the attention of the special prosecutors who are perusing the documents and will now recommend who is to be charged.
When asked about the names of the suspected fraudsters who are on the cards for the court, Ramjattan said that although he knows who those persons are he was not going to disclose the information since he did not want to prejudice the investigation.
But he was adamant that a number of high ranking PPP/C officials will be hauled before the courts soon. Additionally, Ramjattan said that the former head of NICIL, Winston Brassington, has been fingered in corruption but said that the special prosecutors will address that as they deem necessary.
On the issue of the length of time it is taking to bring charges against suspected wrongdoers, the Minister said that a fraud investigation is very different from other investigations.
Noting that to investigate financial irregularities is ten times more difficult than a murder investigation, he was of the view that SOCU has been performing well even under these circumstances.
He stated that a paucity of staff at SOCU is another issue that is affecting the expediency of investigations and said that there is need for strengthening of the police force’s capacity to tackle such crimes.
The Minister said that persons need to have specialized training to function effectively in this field but the Guyana Police Force doesn’t have the complement of officers trained in this area.
To this end the Public Security Minister is asking for international assistance to aid the government in addressing this scourge. Ramjattan urged the United Kingdom to offer more help. This is in addition to the British fraud Expert Dr Sam Sittlington advising SOCU on these matters.
This investigation has its genesis in a forensic audit that was done upon the order of the APNU led government into the operations of NICIL who has long been suspected of questionable activities.
Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, discovered that in relation to the expenditure on the 2007 Cricket World Cup, NICIL had transferred amounts totalling $650 million to the Local Organizing Committee, but failed in its responsibility of ensuring that there was proper accountability for the amounts transferred.
With regards to the construction of a controversial property at 44 High Street in Georgetown, the forensic auditor found that the contract was awarded in 2007 but at the time of reporting, the building remained substantially incomplete. Goolsarran stated in his report that the building was abandoned, and the structure was expected to be torn down because the floors were not constructed to the required specifications.
He said that as the “Project Executing Unit”, NICIL’s role was to ensure that the works were executed according to the agreed specifications and had again failed to discharge its responsibility for this project, resulting in some $350 million of taxpayers’ funds being wasted.
Goolsarran in his report also stated that despite the size and complexity of its operations, NICIL does not have its own procurement rules, which is a key requirement of the Procurement Act. In the circumstances, he said that it would have been more appropriate for NICIL to involve the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) in the assessment of tenders received for the award of contracts.
Instead, the assessment of bids was done internally, and would have lacked the level of independence, especially for large projects such as the Marriott Hotel.
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