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Govt, PPP quarrel about forensic auditors

Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram

by Zena Henry

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has risen up against the government’s choice to hire chartered Accountant Christopher Ram and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, to conduct audits of several State agencies believed to have been corrupted under the former PPP government.

The men were openly critical of the PPP government claiming corruption, squandermania of State assets among other things during their tenure. To hire the men, the PPP suggests is a clear conflict of interest matter stating at a press conference Thursday June 17 that the government chose two “sidekicks of theirs” to conduct investigations into the agencies’ financial conduct.

Former Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall stated his thoughts that the audits would be, “an objective forensic analysis of the financial systems and how it works and how monies were spent.” He said he was not convinced that the men would be keeping this in mind.

However Finance Minister Winston Jordan rubbished the party’s concern saying that Ram and Goolsarran’s work will be available for scrutiny. “This will not be a secret. This will be open book information which all the accounting bodies can judge for themselves.”

He insisted that the party is raving at a “non-issue” since there will procedures to be followed before the accountants’ reports reach the government. He said, “The various offices will have to sign off on the report. The agencies will have their input and concerns before it is submitted to the government,” Jordan explained.

He said that the accountants have their constitutional right to say what they want, but they also have the “right to conduct their work properly.” Jordan said that the government has already stated their case on this issue and he will not be dealing with this “non-starter.”

Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma who is coordinating the audit of more than 30 State agencies told media personnel Wednesday June 10 that Cabinet had proposed terms of references that include codes for proper operations and financial accuracy, among other things to be followed.

He had said that the accountants are certified persons that have to follow professional codes. He did not believe that the professionals would risk losing their licenses to satisfy their personal biases. A day ago, Sharma again had cause to reiterate confidence in the men doing an impartial job.

The Finance Minister said that he too has “confidence” that the work will be done properly. He said outside of this, government has requested financial assistance from an international agency to conduct the audits. “We have approached an international agency for some assistance, but I can’t say who since we are awaiting a response.”

The Minister said there are many agencies to be audited and they would need the help. Goolsarran is said to be one week into the investigation of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL); an agency accused of being a cash cow for the former administration. Ram is expected to commence his work at the Guyana Geology & Mines Commission and the Guyana Gold Board soon.