Govt to fork out $50M to handpicked Ram, Goolsarran
Sole-sourced State Audits
– Auditor General’s office subverted Strident critics of the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Chartered Accountant
Christopher Ram and former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, both of whom were “sole-sourced” by the Government for the purpose of the forensic audits, will cost the State in excess of $50 million, approximately two-thirds of the net figure allotted to be spent on the probes into State agencies. This disclosure, which was made during the final hours of the consideration of the Budget Estimates, took the House by total surprise, because, not only was it discovered that these two individuals would be cashing in on hefty chunks of taxpayers’ monies, but the Government finally admitted that the auditors were hired without going to public tender as was required by the law. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking to reporters shortly after Budget 2015 was passed, noted that this was another act of deception by the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration. “There was no public tender in sourcing them…no public tender whatsoever. These are some of the worse acts of
corruption by this Administration. These were the people who lectured about probity and accountability and being transparent,” Jagdeo stated, exposing the coalition’s duplicity once again. Jagdeo had already revealed that the haphazard manner in which the Government decided to embark upon these audits was in complete violation of the law, but noted that the only reason the PPP/C did not take the matter to the courts was because the Party did not want to give the impression that it was scared of being scrutinised. “We don’t want people to think we have something to hide and that we are afraid of these audits and that is one of the reasons why we haven’t moved to the courts to stop this audit, because we don’t want people to think we are opposed to the audit,” he stated. Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had also previously noted that the entire undertaking of the forensic audits was completely unconstitutional. He too noted that the recruitment process of the auditors was an infringement of the Public Procurement Act. “It is beyond dispute that those auditors were handpicked by the Minister of Finance without any public procurement process embarked upon…This mandatory statutory process was wholly ignored by the Minister of Finance and millions of dollars of services have been contracted to audit, ultra vires and in breach of the laws of Guyana and persons were simply handpicked by the Minister of Finance and given jobs. There was absolutely no public tendering. This is what is called “sole sourcing”, a concept that was vehemently criticised by the very persons who now practise it,” Nandlall exclaimed.
Compounding unlawfulness Both Nandlall and Jagdeo recognised and highlighted that the manner in which the forensic audits were being
executed completely undermined the Office of the Auditor General. Compounding the unlawfulness, the politicians pointed out that Goolsarran and Ram were hiring other auditors to assist in the process when they did not have the authority to do so. “Not only does the Minister have the authority, but he gave these handpicked auditors the instructions to hire more auditors,” Nandlall said, arguing that the power to do this lies with the Auditor General Deodat Sharma.
Requisite skills The contention was also made that Goolsarran and Ram did not even possess the requisite skills to conduct forensic audits. “Normally when you do an audit, you get all your findings and you submit a management letter and the management responds to your findings… But every day they are releasing little bits to the newspapers to make it a political process… they are not competent and they do not have the skills,” Jagdeo had stated. “We in the PPP will support any forensic audit, but for a forensic audit to be fair and to do its work to find corruption, you have to have the skills to do that and I submit that these two persons, they are political operatives. They do not have the skills to practise forensic audits…We are in favour of hiring a reputable international company, in a transparent process to do this, to do forensic audits of all of our accounts,” he added.
Conflict of interest The argument was also made that both Goolsarran and Ram represent a clear conflict of interest. An accredited accountant had already urged the David Granger-led Administration to engage one or more international accounting firms to conduct the forensic audits it is undertaking at several State agencies, arguing that some of the local firms identified present a clear case of conflict of interest and could destroy the credibility of the work they are being contracted to do. “Given their ties to this Administration and obvious animosity towards the PPP/C, this is a clear case of lack of independence and conflict of interest. Goolsarran and Ram, who are members of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), should be reminded of that body’s code of ethics which mandate integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behaviour. Both gentlemen should, therefore, do the honourable thing and distance themselves from this engagement,” the accountant urged.