NCN paid ‘ghost employees’ $6.6M last year
A State audit of the 2014 financial statements of the National Communications Network (NCN) has confirmed that the entity doled out over $6.6M last year for staffers who were not even working there.
Rather, the 17 persons were stationed elsewhere, at the Office of the President (OP), under the administration of the previous Government, and were known as Media Monitors.
The draft report prepared by the Audit Office of Guyana red-flagged the situation of the Media Monitors. Auditors found that no officer from NCN was tasked with monitoring the works of this group and with making sure that they actually report for work. There were no explanations how the situation could have happened and on whose orders.
Sitting then on the NCN Board of Directors and working at the OP was former controversial Press Liaison, Kwame Mc Coy.
The findings would continue to raise questions about the management of NCN which has been racking up tens of millions of dollars in losses annually, forcing Government to lend cash assistance.
The coalition Government, while in Opposition, had complained bitterly about being refused equitable airtime. It had vowed to reform NCN and make it profitable. A new Board of Directors has been appointed and initial assessments found several abuse and possible cases of fraud at various levels.
“Additionally, the contract for one of the media monitors states that she should be paid a vacation allowance and gratuity for the services provided despite being a temporary employee. As a result, the company was left unaware of whether they were receiving value for the money expended.”
The discovery of the Media Monitors was made by the new coalition Government after they took office in May following General elections. The workers when questioned could not say exactly what they were doing at NCN.
Investigations revealed that the Media Monitors, under the administration of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), were tasked with responding to critics on social sites like FaceBook and in the Letter to the Editors’ sections of the local newspapers. They reportedly created fake profiles and names to attack persons who raised issues that were seen to be bringing negative publicity to the then administration.
According to the draft NCN audit report, the management of NCN was unable to provide evidence in the form of an advertisement or interview selection and shortlisting for the Media Monitors which form parts of the normal requirements for employment at NCN.
As a matter of fact, it appears the employees were ghosts.
“Personal files were also not prepared for any of the persons employed as media monitors. As a result, the management of NCN may endure difficulty in the event of any disciplinary actions to be taken against any of the employees in question since a track record is not kept,” the draft audit report said.
Also, persons who may have been better suited for the position were not given a chance since the circumstances surrounding the employment of the employees in question remain unknown.
Last year, NCN’s Salaries and Wages bill was $216M.
The State audit, according to the draft report, has been confirming worrying signs of apparent lawlessness.
Auditors found what appeared to be evidence of a major racket involving fuel for vehicles.
One vehicle, it was discovered visited a GuyOil gas station almost daily to fill up. Containers of gas were also collected.
The draft audit report, sent last month to Chief Executive Officer, Molly Hassan, found that NCN had no police clearance evident in the personnel files of 15 new employees for 2014, even though this is a requirement for employment at the company.
“As a result, persons of questionable background that could damage the image of the company may currently be in employment by the company. The contracts for two of the seventeen persons employed as Media Monitors during the year under review were not presented for examination. As a result, the terms of employment and payment details and penalties for breach of contract could not be ascertained.”
The Audit Office recommended that the NCN management investigate the matters and take corrective measures to have them resolved.
NCN’s coverage for its television and radio stations stretches across the coastlands and in some hinterland area.