…Says internal audit process implemented
Chairperson for the Board of Directors for Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest), Patricia Bacchus, said that internal processes have been implemented to address concerns about the oversight of the agency’s internal finance systems and political interference.
An audit report on the agency, concluded in October 2016, confirmed numerous challenges, including fiscal accountability, heavy-handed political interference and a lack of governance structure, contributed to under-performance.
At the agency’s end-of-year press conference yesterday, Bacchus said the board has approved a finance and audit sub-committee of the Board of Directors.
The sub-committee, she stated, is chaired by a certified public accountant, who sits on the board of GO-Invest, and also includes the Chairperson, head of accounts, as well as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Deputy CEO.
“What we do is, on a quarterly basis, we look at bank reconciliation for cheques issued by the agency and we conduct random spot checks on systems for accountability,” Bacchus stated.
Last year’s forensic audit report reviewed the operations of GO-Invest and pointed to the non-existence of an Internal Audit Department or Audit Charter as a very serious shortcoming, since the agency handles critical data that highlights potential investments in Guyana, and recommends billions of dollars in concessions to be approved by the Finance Minister.
Bacchus stated that the agency implemented in December, a Financial Accountability Policy that details every single process to be followed when dealing with financial transactions from petty cash to the issuance of cheques.
Bacchus highlighted that the Board took a further decision to outsource accounting of the agency to chartered accountants, since it was recognised that a sub-committee cannot undertake all the work of an internal audit department.
She stated that letters of engagement will be sent out soon to procure the services of the chartered accountant.
“In our estimation the fact that we are a subvention agency and not a revenue-generating agency may not provide enough substantive work for us at this point in time to have a full internal audit department. The most cost effective way of doing it, in the estimation of our board, is to have that sub-committee of the board and out-source work to the chartered accountant,” Bacchus explained.
The audit had found wanton misuse of authority by the former CEO, Keith Burrowes, as evidenced in several transactions.
NO MORE POLITICAL INTERFERENCE
The audit report had highlighted that there was political interference in the work of the agency.
Bacchus was asked about the incidents of political directives and she replied, “We no longer have that”.
“I have been Chairman for over two years and I can say with absolutely certainty that I have never received a telephone call from a Minister of Government directing that the agency does or does not do any particular task; they have just left us to deal with the governance of the agency… and neither does the board interfere with the executives, unless I receive a complaint regarding the timeliness of an application then I would check on them,” Bacchus stated.
The audit report had also called for the hiring of a Deputy CEO and this was undertaken. The board has since appointed Natalia Seepersaud.
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