GEA says SOCU’s search warrant was not necessary, fully cooperating with probe

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The search warrant obtained by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) during the execution of its probe into the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) has irked the Agency’s Board of Directors who are claiming that such a move was not necessary as the Agency was fully compliant in SOCU’s probe.

Head of SOCU, Assistant Police Commissioner Sydney James, had explained that his team’s presence at the agency was in relation to two investigations which SOCU had been mandated to investigate.

SOCU Head, Sydney James, updating the media on the probe

“One relates to the forensic audit of the Guyana Energy Agency, and the second one relates to an investigation which was done by the Ministry of the Presidency with respect to malpractices and mismanagement in the purchase of fuel by the Guyana Oil (Company) and the Guyana Energy Agency,” James detailed.

Moreover, according to the SOCU Head, the unit had previously requested the relevant documents from the Energy Agency to facilitate its probe, but there were “challenges” that forced SOCU personnel to turn up at the office.

James also said that a search warrant was also applied for and obtained from a city Magistrate.

The Board of Directors of the GEA in registering their concerns, via a public missive, said “at no time was the GEA reluctant, unavailable, or uncooperative in the submission and handover of the requested documents.

“Rather, on receipt of letter dated October 4, 2017 from SOCU to the GEA which requested a list of information, the GEA provided all required documentation within a two week period, save and except for documents and vouchers in excess of two thousand files for which the GEA, in its response, noted the potential impracticality due to its sheer volume and invited the Investigating Team to visit the GEA office at its convenience to review the files in totality. Again, while we respect SOCU’s mandate, we respectfully submit therefore that the search warrant was not necessary in this instance.”

Moreover, the Directors say they are inquiring from James about the reported ‘challenges’ faced in obtaining information required, in addition to ascertaining whether the information provided was sufficient.

Government had, in March of 2016, set up a three-member Board of Inquiry (BoI) led by Assistant Commissioner Winston Cosbert to investigate allegations of wrong doing, malpractices, and mismanagement in the purchase of fuel by GUYOIL and GEA.

The Board was commissioned following several allegations of misconduct levelled against staff within both fuel agencies. The aim of the inquiry is to advise the state on the veracity of those allegations, to report findings and conclusions to the Government, and to make recommendations on actions to be taken if individuals are found culpable.

GEA has been under the spotlight for its management of fuel purchases for the country. A forensic audit done on the agency reportedly highlighted a number of issues.

In January of 2017, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman told media operatives at a post-Cabinet briefing that Government would be moving to take action against persons found culpable of mismanagement at the GEA and other State agencies, after the forensic audits into those entities have revealed a number of financial irregularities and had recommended that reports be handed over to the police for further investigations.

The following month, several forensic audit reports, including GEA along with the BoI report, were handed over to the Police Force.

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