Several forensic audits which have been commissioned by the coalition Government have revealed that the affairs of some statutory bodies are in an awful state.
As such, Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran recently recommended that Parliament pays more attention to these and other entities.
He said that this scrutiny should be exercised specifically through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The PAC is the standing committee that exercises supervisory oversight of the functioning of the Audit Office. The Committee exercises powers in keeping with the Evidence Act, Chapter 1:08, which allows for the summoning of witnesses to give evidence and/or provide documents to it. It also has penalties for non-compliance without proper reason.
Moreover, Goolsarran said it is disappointing that the PAC does not examine the accounts of public corporations, other agencies in which controlling interest vests in the State, and statutory bodies.
“In all probability, these entities are in need of greater scrutiny by the Legislature, as the results of the recently completed forensic audits will bear out. In my recent discussion with the PAC Chairman, (Irfaan Ali) I raised this matter with him, and he is amenable to having these accounts examined.”
Furthermore, Goolsarran said that the task is an enormous but necessary one, and therefore the PAC will have to seriously consider “re-engineering” its approach to the examination of the Public Accounts.
In this regard, he commented that there is a model that the United Nations uses which is worthy of serious consideration. He explained that it involves having a committee of experts examining these accounts first and submitting the results to the PAC.
In this way, Goolsarran said that there will be no need for the PAC to carry out any detailed examination as it will rely on the work of the committee.
It was in May that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars 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).
Several audits were also launched in July , 2015 while others started in later weeks. While the report on NICIL has been completed for months now with criminal proceedings 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.
Most of the forensic audits have unearthed several hidden accounts, with billions of dollars poised to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund. Government stated that this phased transfer process has already started.
More importantly, the forensic audits in some cases have reportedly not only uncovered fraud and various forms of corruption, but investigators have also made several critical recommendations for the way forward on several agencies and sectors, all of which Cabinet is yet to see.
The government was also blasted for failing to release the forensic audit reports in a timely manner to the public. Making this comment in particular was Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, during a press conference which was held at Freedom House.
Furthermore, the forensic audit into NFMU has unearthed some of the “most appalling acts of corruption”, said Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, in a previous interview with Kaieteur News.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Sharma had 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 Minster had 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 who is in charge of the audits, revealed that this has been completed since August. He had said that the audit uncovered that the entity has been holding some 15 accounts with millions of dollars.
A reliable source revealed that the monies total 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.
The Environmental Protection Agency was established on World Environment Day, June 5, 1996. It was on this date that the then Acting President of Guyana, Samuel Hinds, assented to Environmental Protection Act (No 11, 1996).
The Act mandates the Agency to oversee the effective management, conservation, protection and improvement of the environment.
It also requires that the Agency takes the necessary measures to ensure the prevention and control of pollution, assessment of the impact of economic development on the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources.
The Agency’s work enables Guyana to contribute to global and national environmental protection and conservation.
As part of its work the EPA implements education, regulation and enforcement programmes and uses partnership and collaborative approaches to strengthen the impact of its interventions.
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