February 27, 2018
…files not forwarded to Police
Back in 2015, millions were spent on 50 forensic audits into a number of state agencies. However, the administration has been silent on these audits, even as only a handful of them have resulted in Police action.
Speaking to this publication, Minister within the Finance Ministry, Jaipaul Sharma, disclosed that a number of these forensic audits had failed to unearth any instance of fraud and corruption.
Minister Jaipaul Sharma
“The ones that Cabinet has said (are) to (be forwarded) to the Police have been forwarded to the Police. And so the other reports weren’t sufficient to send forward to Police,” Sharma said. “So they had to determine if they would go to Police.”
According to Sharma, once an agency was identified to have administrative issues rather than fraud, the report would ultimately be sent to the relevant agency. This, he noted, would then be used to improve that agency’s operations.
“These reports were meant to get an insight into the functioning of these organisations. The reports weren’t to go after fraud or what not. The auditors conducted their work. Most of these reports, once they are not pointing to fraud, (are) sent to the various agencies for them to incorporate the various findings,” Minister Sharma explained.
“(For example) student loans: All of those actions the Minister of Finance did to improve on the quality of the student loan agency and the operation was because of the forensic audits. These were all recommendations,” Sharma disclosed.
While he declined to cite the particular agencies that had their matters ended at the administrative level, he pointed out that those determinations were made at Cabinet level.
Million on audits
Over $130 million had been spent on these audits, which totalled 50. Having been completed by a number of local audit firms, some were, quite some time ago, handed over to the Police for investigation.
The audits which have resulted in Police action include probes into the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments limited (NICIL).
Former General Manager (GM) of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Jagnarine Singh; his former deputy, Madanlall Ramraj; and former GRDB accountant Peter Ramcharran were jointly slapped with 34 charges alleging fraud committed between the years 2011 and 2012. Charges against Ramcharran were withdrawn last year, as he was out of the jurisdiction.
Then prosecution against former GMC General Manager Nizam Hassan and his co-accused, Felicia De Souza-Madramootoo, collapsed after a total of 34 witnesses were called by the Prosecution to support the allegations of fraud against the duo. One of the first victims of the audit, Hassan had the allegations dismissed due to lack of evidence, and he has been reinstated to his job as GMC Chief Executive Officer.
After several months of investigating a case born from the NICIL audit, SOCU officers, back in March 2017, arrested several former Government ministers and officials, including former President and current Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, over the purchase of plots of land at the Sparendaam seawall area commonly known as “Pradoville II”.
While the current Administration contends that the transaction is a criminal act because the land was allegedly sold below market value, the PPP had argued that subsidized housing has always been a part of the legacy of the People’s Progressive Party, and that countless Guyanese have benefited from lands sold below market value.
No further action was ever pursued against these former officials, whose arrest had prompted resounding cries of ‘witch hunting’.