‘Do they include Anand Goolsarran who, in recent times, has set himself up as a transparency and accountability czar?’
(The following article is taken from today’s Guyana Times and reprinted below for our INews readers)
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has taken to task Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran over his recent claims that “the Government has not been moving swiftly enough to bring criminal charges against who abused the laws and public resources of Guyana, making specific reference to the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL).
Goolsarran in an article published in the Kaieteur Newspaper on September 9, 2016, titled “Govt must seriously commit to prosecuting those who abused laws, public resources – Goolsarran”, stated that Anti-corruption advocates were questioning whether Jordan has truly displayed an interest in seeing the former CEO of NICIL face the full extent of the law.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan
But, Jordan in a strongly-worded letter to the press queried who are the anti-corruption advocates raising the concerns.
“I do not know who these “anti-corruption advocates” are. Do they include Anand Goolsarran who, in recent times, has set himself up as a transparency and accountability czar?,” Jordan questioned.
The Finance Minister went on to remind the former Auditor General that with regards to criminal proceedings against the former CEO or another official who is accused of a crime, there must be due process.
“I am not a lawyer. Most of my professional life has been devoted to economics and finance. But even without the benefit of substantial legal training, I know that everyone is presumed innocent, until proven guilty. Facing the full extent of the law is a function of the outcome of police investigations and the judgment of the Director of Public Prosecutions, not the bleating of the anti-corruption advocates,” Jordan arrested. He noted too that even though there have been repeated explanations from the government that the Cabinet had established a process to deal with the forensic audits, there still seem to be unnecessary questions.
Former Auditor General
In March of 2016, a Sub-Committee of Cabinet was appointed, consisting of Hon Khemraj Ramjattan, Vice President and Minister of Public Security, as Chairman; Hon Basil Williams, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Hon Jaipaul Sharma, Minister within the Ministry of Finance to scrutinize the forensic audit reports to determine which of them dealt mainly with administrative irregularities and which entered the sphere of criminality.
Goolsarran was the auditor hired by the Government back in July 2015 to conduct forensic audit into the affairs of the NICIL and to make recommendations.
The audit was completed and Goolsaran recommended criminal and/or disciplinary actions against all those responsible for violations, including failure to properly account for state resources under their control. This included the former Finance Minister, Ashni Singh, who was also the Chairman of NICIL. However the audit was said to have lacked credibility and integrity, since the recommendations against the holding company were shrouded with biasness and prejudice.
In December 2015, Guyana Times was able to obtain a report which contained NICIL’s response to the forensic audit which was conducted by Goolsarran. These responses were not included in a copy of the audit report, “leaked” to pro-government media entities.
In the report, NICIL made the point that the findings stated the audit report do not provide any evidence to any instance of a constitutional breach. In fact, Guyana Times was able to see the various legal opinions issued in favour of NICIL, from prominent local lawyers, that clearly contradict the assertions of Goolsarran in his report. NICIL’s response pointed to the existence of these opinions, including the fact that Goolsarran is not a lawyer. It also pointed out that there was no evidence of self-enrichment, that all the prior audit opinions of NICIL were clean audit opinions, and that there was a body of evidence showing that all major matters, Cabinet’s or the NICIL’s Board approval was evident. NICIL further pointed out that as a company, all actions were consistent with its incorporation documents which dated back to 1990.
BIAS & PREJUDICE
Added to that, NICIL contended that Goolsarran’s position as former Auditor General gave him access to information and knowledge about the entity that would have been based on pre-2002 matters and circumstances thereby introducing potential risks for bias and prejudice in the forensic process where there is a conflict with his predispositions and the status quo. NICIL highlighted that this potential risk for bias and prejudice was demonstrated by Goolsarran’s emphasis on pre-2002 events in his executive summary and his minimal and “sometimes dismissive” reference throughout the report to the audits and clean audit opinions for every year from 2002 of the current Auditor General Deodat Sharma. Goolsarran audited NICIL from 1990 to 2002. NICIL had highlighted also that its contention of potential risk and prejudice was further supported by the forensic auditor’s two-part newspaper publication called “Accountability Watch” where Goolsarran, in his personal capacity, prior to conducting the audit, opined on several matters involving NICIL and made recommendations in his concluding remarks about what course of action he believes government should take regarding NICIL. These very conclusions were repeated in the recommendations of the report, NICIL posited.
Meanwhile, NICIL opined that the forensic auditor failed to satisfy the main objective of the forensic audit by failing to provide any evidence which substantive law, accounting principle or government policy was broken, violated, breached or ignored. NICIL refuted all references by Goolsarran to his “so called legal positions”, to indicate NICIL possessed substantial legal advice to the contrary on these matters.
Additionally, NICIL stated that the report fails to distinguish clearly, which matters are legal matters and which matters are policy matters. Moreover, it noted that in almost every case, there was no support to show where the law had been breached or the many cases of previous audits that do not reach this conclusion.
It has been widely observed and commented, that without the former NICIL CEO and his team having sight of the final report, which they were promised before the start of the forensic audit, that the final audit report by Goolsarran was serially leaked to KN and SN. One KN reporter at a public press conference with Brassington in December, while on camera, stated that Goolsarran was speaking to her on what she was publishing on the NICIL report when the report had not even been shared with Brassington. Goolsarran subsequently denied this allegation to this newspaper. But observers have said that this KN reporter along with the leaked audit report, suggest that Mr Goolsarran independence and credibility can be seriously questioned and that perhaps the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana and its overseas body, be formally invited to investigate these matters of Mr Goolsarran commenting in the media on matters when the Government is his client. The opposition has called on the Government to officially release the audit reports along with the responses of the responsible officials. To date, this has not happened.