In an effort to clear up misconceptions, former GO-Invest Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Keith Burrowes is responding to the forensic audit into his tenure at the entity. One of the issues he addressed, in an extensive interview with this media house, was over $3 million in loans the audit stated he had received.
The forensic audit, which was carried out by Nigel Hinds and Associates had highlighted these unapproved loans, although the former CEO had repaid them by February 2016. Burrowes admitted that he received loans, but noted that not adhering to the system at the time was an anomaly.
“Yes indeed there were several staff loans that were advanced to me. And Go-Invest have a system. We’ve never had an (incident) for all the years I have been there where persons have left without paying back the amount they had borrowed,” he assured.
Burrowes stated that in his case, he did not get a lump sum advance but rather, there were several advances. He added that he was constantly reminded by board members of the need to resolve his outstanding advance, which he eventually did.
“There is a system where the CEO approves staff (advances) and the Chairman approves (for the CEO). That is an anomaly and I do admit that wasn’t followed because I’ve always felt that that was a temporary arrangement. But I have no issues taking responsibility for that.”
“The bottom line is the Chairman should have signed off on it, even though it was a temporary arrangement. So it’s an anomaly that I have to take responsibility for, even though it was repaid.”
Burrowes also responded to the audit report’s findings regarding his personal driver. The audit had stated that Burrowes authorised an advance of $242,000 to his personal driver. It even recommended that this amount be recovered.
According to Burrowes, however, the driver was assisting Go-Invest at his behest. Burrowes stated that rather than have Go-invest hire a driver for him, he chose to use his personal driver in an effort to save the entity money.
“I (was) entitled to a driver at Go-Invest. Because Go-Invest had some problems and there was only one driver, I said to them I will use the driver assigned to me by the other organisation I was working with and he will also assist Go-Invest, which he did, with their work. So all they gave him was an allowance.”
“Mind you, they were saving the money because they didn’t have to pay a driver for me. So they didn’t have to hire a new driver for the CEO, as was done in the past.”
The audit report also stated that Burrowes had authorised and received an entertainment allowance for himself, to the tune of $480,000. This, the report stated, was done without the approval of the Board of Directors.
Burrowes explained that the entertainment allowances highlighted in the audit were not being paid on a monthly basis, but rather the amount covered a period of over a year. According to the former Presidential Advisor, these allowances were to facilitate meetings, including with investors.
“The entertainment allowance was for entertaining investors, which is necessary for (meetings) outside the building. And the entertainment was not only the CEO, but also my senior officers who would go out and meet with investors.”
In the wake of the audits, however, Burrowes expressed optimism that all the reports would serve as a wakeup call and that the administration of semi-autonomous agencies would be revamped.
He stated that the audits could be value added by determining from trends whether there were systematic problems within these agencies or individuals. He stated that reforms could then be made.
Go-Invest is a statutory body which functions as the facilitator of local and foreign investment in Guyana. The audit into its operations is one of several audits undertaken in 2015 by the coalition Government. Some $133 million was expended on 45 of the forensic audits to ascertain what transpired in state entities under the previous administration. (Guyana Times)