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Criminally culpable will be prosecuted, forensic audit starts at several govt agencies

Ministry of Finance

by Zena Henry

The new government has started its sweep into the financial practices employed by the former administration with forensic audits already underway at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the recently built Marriot Hotel and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), to name a few.

The government, according to Joseph Harmon, Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency, is basically trying to locate large sums of cash which it believes the former administration would have siphoned off into private accounts during their tenure.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan told reporters at Parliament’s reopening one day ago that some “30 state agencies are slated for forensic audit,” with more than four of those investigations already underway. While the Minister did not elaborate on the investigations, he hinted that the probes have already started to yield results that he was not prepared to divulge.

While investigators are gearing to start on another group of agencies, Minister Jordan was again restrained in his comments as he did not want to “alert” anyone.

Minister Harmon noted however that with the ongoing investigations into the State agencies, it is definite that persons will be held culpable if found to have acted criminally with the country’s money. The use of sole sourcing options and other preferential provisions are also being investigated,  pointing to the former administration’s arrangement with the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Company (New GPC).

Harmon told reporters Thursday June 11 that within the makeup of things the new government found that, “people were signing contracts from the old administration even after the (elections) results were declared and we had a new government.” He said people were actually committing this new government to contracts which we had no opportunity to peruse.”

Harmon did not give an estimation as to what money was lying outside of the Consolidated Fund, but noted; “We always felt there was a parallel treasury, so while we had the Consolidate fund, you had several other funds which were not paid into the consolidate fund, several funds that were never brought to the National Assembly for it to go through the kind of scrutiny which some funds have,” such as the Lotto fund, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, and National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL ) among others.

Harmon said bank accounts were held at the Bank of Guyana, “and those sums I believe have actually been paid into the Consolidated fund ” creating some flexibility.

“Those parallel funds we are going to put them into the consolidated fund. In my own capacity I am also finding that there are some departments that held private accounts, that money which should have been paid into the consolidated fund for work done for the State was actually being paid into accounts which were controlled by certain persons,” he said.

Harmon posited that for those persons involved, “Once investigations are done, once there were criminal transactions there will be prosecutions.”

Minister Jordan noted however that the forensic audits are, “special investigations that essentially goes beyond auditing.” He said it goes into systems, “whether systems are in place, whether they were followed, and procedures… going behind the numbers as you would want to say. It will also look at malfeasance, misuse, misappropriation, systems and human resources,” the Minister clarified.