Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan permitted Owen Nestor, an accountant at the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) to refresh his memory from his statement while in the witness box, when he was recalled to testify in the trial of Nizam
Hassan, former General Manager at GMC and Felecia De Souza-Madramootoo.
It is alleged that between October 28, 2010 and April 25, 2012 they conspired with each other to continuously approve payments which were made to the contractor, Constantine Engineering and Construction Services Limited, Trinidad and Tobago, for works that were incompetently and incorrectly done with inferior materials to rehabilitate the GMC building; knowing that such works should not have been approved.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charge and were each released on $250,000 bail with instructions to report to the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU).
The defendants have also been ordered to lodge their passports with the court.
However, yesterday Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan made an order for De Souza- Madramootoo’s expired passport to be returned to her.
This was after the defendant’s Attorney-at-Law Glenn Hanoman requested that the passport be returned to his client for the purpose of renewal.
Attorneys-at-Law Hanoman and Marcel Bobb (who is representing Hassan) had been opposed to the witness being allowed to refresh from the statements to recall several cheque numbers, cheques amounts, and the commercial banks they were drawn up for, among other things.
But the objections were overruled by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan yesterday when the matter came up in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. The Chief Magistrate ruled that the court sees nothing wrong with Nestor refreshing from the statement he prepared using contemporaneous notes.
The trial was adjourned until July 6, for Nestor to identify some documents in relation to financial transactions.
On April 5, Nestor had told the court that ten million dollars was approved by the National Assembly in 2010 to carry out rehabilitation works on the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) office building situated at Robb and Alexander Streets, Georgetown.
According to Nestor, the Agriculture Ministry would hold meetings to review the budget before dispatching it to the Ministry of Finance for approval.
In his presence, during a meeting, Nestor stated that no alterations were made to the project.
The witness told the court that the budget was approved by the National Assembly the following year to undertake the rehabilitation works.
The monies were deposited into the GMC chequing account held at Republic Bank, the witness added. Nestor related that he informed Hassan that the budget had been approved and told him that based on the contract, the monies might not be sufficient to undertake the works.
The accountant recalled that Hassan related to him that he also made the same observation and that they would have to utilize savings for which he would talk with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture about getting approval.
Constantine Engineering and Construction Services Limited, Nestor revealed, was awarded the contract to carry out the rehabilitation. He added that Hanniel Madramootoo was the project engineer who was tasked with supervising the works.
When asked by the Prosecutor to outline his roles as an accountant, the witness said, “Basically to overlook the financial operation of the Guyana Marketing Corporation, preparation of financial statements, and preparation of budget…”
Nestor disclosed that his department has three other staff, including a senior accounts clerk, who is responsible for the preparation of payroll and financial statements among other roles; an accounts clerk, who is tasked with preparing cheques for payments and managing the petty cash system, and a stock clerk, who receives goods from suppliers for the Guyana Shop and enters stock into the accounts system.
Nestor told the prosecutor that he is familiar with the term “major project”.
In explaining this, he told the court that it is a term used to prepare contracts for suppliers.
“Once the corporation decides to do a project, management will seek technical support from the Ministry of Agriculture to assist in preparing the appropriate contract. Once we get that approval from the Ministry of Finance for engineering assistance, that engineer will provide a contract based on what is the project.”
Nestor recalled that Afraz Ali was the project manager for Constantine Engineering and Construction Services Limited and that he would usually uplift cheques on behalf of the company.
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