Sep 23, 2021 News
… As Fmr. Finance Minister calls for Police investigation, public release of Forensic Audits
Kaieteur News – With the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) coming under intense scrutiny and resurfacing allegations of fuel smuggling involving key organisations such as the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) and several prominent local gas stations, the entity’s top brass has silenced its division heads from speaking with the media on any matter related to the Agency.
As such, requests are now being made to have questions sent directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Mahender Sharma, or Chairman of GEA’s Board of Directors, Jerome Khan.
This publication has since complied with the request but up to press time, there was no formal response from the GEA.
Kaieteur News managed however, to speak with a confidential source inside the GEA, who has since confirmed that all staff members, including the various Division Heads, have been directed by GEA’s Top Brass to not speak with the press, regarding any matter in light of the intensified scrutiny of the organisation.
This publication was told by a source at the GEA, “let me be very frank with you right, the instruction has been, that literally any questions, no matter what the questions are, whether it’s on the record, or off the record, you have to refer to the CEO and the Chairman.”
This publication was at the time attempting to solicit from the agency’s representative what measures had been put in place to curb the instances of fuel smuggling and inconsistencies with regards to the fuel marking process, record keeping and allegations that had been raised prior, with regards licenced importers of fuel such as GATOSP.
A Forensic Audit that was conducted by Nigel Hinds Financial Services for the Ministry of Finance, had reviewed the GEA operations during the period November 1, 2011 to May 31, 2015.
Based on the audit findings, the Fuel Marking Division of GEA has a weak internal control system and cited “for instance, the responsibility for ordering, storing, dispensing and reconciling fuel marking concentrates are limited (at the time) to three individuals.”
Additionally, Nigel Hinds Financial Services had found that there is a lack of proper validation of fuel marking reports, prepared and issued by terminal staff of oil companies to Marking Services Division (MSD) of GEA for bulk fuel marked.
The reports are used by the MSD to determine the quantity of fuel marked, so that the marking fees could be calculated.
According to the findings of the audit however, “our investigations found that these reports were not independently validated by MSD staff or by any officer of the vessel that delivered the fuel to the terminal.”
It was noted too, that prior to 2015 there is no documentation that MSD requested the Association of Trawlers and Seafood Operators to provide approved Guyana Revenue Authority Custom forms, before duty free markers are dispensed from GEA stores to mark the fuel.
According to the report, the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Operators or the trawlers’ operators, prior to 2015, only made a verbal request instead of a notification to the GRA and GEA at least 20 hours in advance of the estimated time of arrival of the authorised importing vessel, “To allow for the timely dispatch of fueling marking inspectors to mark fuel imported.”
According to the auditors, “this therefore, compromised the ability of the GEA management to provide proper monitoring and accounting procedures to comply with the agreement between GoG (Government of Guyana’s) monitoring body GEA and the Trawlers Association.”
The auditors had contended in their findings, that “abuse of and non-compliance with the fuel marking programme are closely linked to high levels of fuel smuggling.”
This publication was told by a source in the GEA that the agency did submit responses to the auditors that had not been included in the final document.
This publication was told that with regards to the fuel marking problems that had been outlined in the forensic audit, specifically the six-month gap between reconciliation, has since been brought down to monthly consolidations among other measures. Audits are also now being done monthly.
Meanwhile, Former Junior Finance Minister under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) administration–now Leader of the Equal Rights and Justice Party–has since called on the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government to not only make public all of the forensic audit reports, but to also involve the Guyana Police Force.
According to Sharma, the former minister who had responsibility for reporting to Cabinet on the forensic audits, “the Irfaan Ali Government should now make all the audits public as no police investigations are being conducted into the findings.”
He believes that his call for the release of these reports, “will be done because the said PPP/C in opposition (had) requested of the APNU+AFC’s Government for all Forensic Audit Reports, to be presented to the National Assembly but this was not done because the Guyana Police Force requested that those reports that were part of active investigation should not be made public for obvious reasons.”
Continuing his call for the government’s release of all of the forensic audits, the former government Minister said, “it appears that this government would not be pursuing any investigation on the audit findings which SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit) was actively investigating and which SARA (State Asset Recovery Agency) was utilising for asset recovery investigations.”
Challenging the Ali-led administration to make public all of the reports, the former Minister further qualified his position saying, “since the government claims it contains nothing of value and it was a waste of taxpayers’ dollars, they should release all of the reports and embarrass the APNU+AFC’s government.”
The practices at the GEA regarding its licencing, fuel marking programme and reports of widespread fuel smuggling in Guyana, has since attracted the attention of a number of bilateral partners including legislators and activists in the US.
In addition to the US Embassy in Guyana formally holding talks with the agency with regards allegations of discrimination, Head of State, President Ali, has also been written to by a number of senior US Officials calling for an investigation into the actions of the GEA.
These include Georgia Senator, Michael Rhett; Congressmen, Hakeem Jeffries and Hank Johnson; and Congresswoman, Joyce Beatty, among others.
Additionally influential US Human Rights Activist, Dr. Joseph Beasley of the Joe Beasley Foundation, had also recently written to President Ali to look into the allegations being levelled against the GEA.
Oct 27, 2021Kaieteur News – Fempower defeated Zorg by 25 runs in a specially-arranged female Breast Cancer Awareness exhibition ten-over match recently at Zorg ground, Essequibo Coast, region 2. Fempower...
Oct 27, 2021
Oct 27, 2021
Oct 27, 2021
Oct 27, 2021
Oct 26, 2021
Kaieteur News – The answer to the question above is that they met in a confluence last Saturday morning in my head.... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – It is nothing short of shocking to learn that, despite the fact that the world... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]