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“No evidence of illegality, fraud, or corruption by NICIL”- Brassington

Chief Executive Officer of NICIL, Winston Brassington.

The National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) on Monday denied that anyone has been creamed off funds from that holding company for government’s assets and rejected claims by a Forensic Auditor that its monies should have at all times been deposited into the Consolidated Fund.

“The facts contained in the Report will ultimately show that there has been and is no evidence of illegality, fraud, or corruption by NICIL.  Further, the Preliminary Report does not allege any personal enrichment of any of the officers or directors of NICIL, including the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), Winston Brassington,” according to a statement issued by that entity.

Refuting claims by Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma in a Kaieteur News newspaper report in its October 18, 2015 edition that criminal charges have been recommended by Forensic Auditor, Anand Goolsarran, Brassington said the only reference to violations in the Preliminary Report has been the repeated claim that Guyana’s constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act has been violated because monies have not been deposited into the Consolidated Fund.

Contrary to the Kaieteur News report, Brassington said Goolsarran’s only recommendation in the “preliminary report”, in respect of alleged wrong-doings, states that disciplinary action should be entitled against all those who were complicit in the violation of Article 216 and 217 of the Constitution, including the Board of Directors of NICIL, the former Minister of Finance and the previous Cabinet, as provided for under the following sections of the FMA Act: (a) Section 48—Misuse of public moneys; (b) Section 49-Liability for Loss of public moneys; and (c) Section 85—Liability of Official.”

Brassington, in the NICIL statement, stressed that that entity had received advice that there was no legal requirement for all of its funds to be placed in that Fund. “ICIL operates like any other state-owned entity, incorporated under the Companies Act.  If it operates in violation of Article 216 and 217 of the Constitution, then all state-owned entities would be similarly guilty.  Further, this would defeat the very purpose of having Government conduct commercial business via companies. 

There is no legal precedent or court ruling that suggests that NICIL is obliged to deposit its revenues into the Consolidated Fund or that Articles 216 and 217 are applicable to NICIL,” said Brassington.

The NICIL CEO said Goolsarran recognizes that from 1991 to 2001, NICIL transferred $3.415 B to the Consolidated Fund.  Between 2002 and 2012, over $12 B was paid as dividends from NICIL to the Consolidated Fund.  Mr. Goolsarran also recognizes that the accounts of NICIL, prior to 2002, were “qualified” audit opinions but for every year since, NICIL has received “unqualified” or “clean bill of health” audit opinions. 

Brassington seized the opportunity to highlight that NICIL received advice in 2001 from private accounting firm, Ram and McRae that clearly showed, that NICIL prior to 2002, violated the Companies Act and its financial statements were not prepared in accordance with applicable accounting standards. 

“Ram and McRae assisted NICIL is preparing its accounts in proper accounting form, after which it received a clean audit opinion.  At no time, did NICIL receive advice that it had to deposit all of its revenue into the Consolidated Fund,” said  Brassington.

The NICIL boss maintained that  “all actions taken by NICIL over the years on matters identified in the Preliminary Report, were on the lawful authority of its Boards (Privatisation Board or NICIL Board) and/or Cabinet.

Reacting to the manner in which the procedure for the forensic  audit is being followed, the  NICIL CEO charged that the protocol was not being followed and there was imbalance in the release of information, ultimately reducing the process to a “witch hunt.” “Incendiary accusations without specificity as to wrongdoings, lack any semblance of objectivity and is one form of prejudicing a fair and balanced audit process.  Such actions are more akin to a “witch hunt” than to a fair, independent, impartial, professional, and objective audit process,” he said.