During the five years of the APNU/AFC Coalition administration, there was never an audit conducted into the operations of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), the Government’s privatisation arm.
This is according to Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was at the time responding to questions during a recent radio programme ‘Guyana’s Oil and You’.
He was at the time discussing measures that the new PPP/C administration would be putting in place to ensure high levels of transparency and accountability of Government’s operations, especially as it relates to the spending of oil funds.
“NICIL, in five years of the (APNU/AFC) Government, with all the talk of transparency, never had an audit,” Jagdeo noted.
He explained that when the new PPP Government took office in August of this year, it found “horror stories” of transactions that were highly questionable under the previous administration.
“With all the criticisms of NICIL under us (PPP/C Government), we ensured that in 2012 we published a list of every privatisation transactions…and showed the process through which they were privatised.”
According to Jagdeo, that process involved the privatisation unit, under NICIL, going to the Privatisation Board, which is made up of three persons from the government, one from the private sector, one from the labour movement and one from consumers’ affairs.
He noted that once this process was completed, a recommendation was then presented to Cabinet for consideration.
However, Jagdeo claimed that in the case of the previous (APNU/AFC) government, NICIL, in some cases made decisions on its own about sale of assets without going through the necessary procedures that would allow for transparency.
According to the Vice President, the Coalition Government destroyed and undermined the institutional settings for the awarding of contracts.
He said when the PPP/C took office recently, it found “stacks of contracts which were dealt with outside of the tender board scrutiny”.
“When you undermine the procedures for awarding contracts, you don’t advertise and you go to selective tendering…then there is room for corruption, enormous corruption,” Jagdeo declared.
He said the PPP/C Government is taking immediate steps to ensure that proper systems are put back into place that would discourage corrupt practices.
“So we have to go back rigidly to put in place the safeguards we had in relation to tendering etc and the regulations would be in place; and then audits.”
In this regard, he noted that the Auditor General’s capability would have to be built up enormously to carry out the necessary audits.
Jagdeo noted that President Irfaan Ali has already made it clear to Ministers and other government officials that they must act transparently.