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Govt, Opposition bicker about hiring forensic auditors

Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma.

Amid claims by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that government handed out contracts to its friends to audit several State entities, Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma told the National Assembly that several persons and entities had been invited to conduct the “stocktaking” exercises.

“Mr. Speaker, all efforts were made to have a very wide participation of Chartered Accounting firms taking into account possible conflict of interest, capacity and time constraints,” he told the House during his contribution to the debate on the 2015 National Debate.

Sharma dubbed as a lie that the Granger-led administration singled out critics of the former PPP administration- Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram and former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran- to conduct the audits.

But Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo charged that government single-sourced the contract to conduct the audits. “They have single-sourced it because it was not advertised, it was not pre-qualified,”  he told reporters. The other options are open competitive tender, prequalification tender, selective tendering or single-sourcing.

The Junior Finance Minister explained that contact was made with the company, Ram and McRae, “not the individual,” Nigel Hinds Financial Services, Maurice Solomon, PKF Barcellos Narine and Company, Harry Parmesar, D. Bahadur and Company, TSD Lall, Nizam Ali and Company, HLBR Seebarran and Company as well as four retired senior staff of the Audit Office included Goolsarran.

He pointed out that due to the “limited number of accounting firms in Guyana,” government considered individuals because they could not offer an opinion on the financial statements.

Sharma said the forensic audits would focus on the past four years and aim to establish the true financial status of the entities, identify revenue leakages, enhance revenue collection and promote the transfer of excess monies to the Consolidated Fund.  “Mr. Speaker, I could say to you that the revelation of these audits was very revealing to say the least,” he said.

The forensic audits are expected to be completed in September and then the findings and recommendations would be made public.

Those entities being audited include government’s holding company of state assets, National Industrial Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Environmental Protection Agency, Guyana Power and Light, Guyana Revenue Authority.