Last Updated on Monday, 21 December 2015, 21:51 by GxMediaHead of government’s holding company for government assets, Winston Brassington Monday afternoon denied any wrongdoing and instead accused a forensic auditor, Anand Goolsarran of divulging contents of the draft report without giving the company’s principal’s an opportunity to comment.
“As far as I know I have not broken any laws and if Mr. Goolsarran is suggesting it then I believe I have a clear defence on why what we did was properly done and we should not be held responsible,” he told a news conference at his Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown office of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). Brassington said the only way the allegations could be settled was if they were taken to court and that he was willing to take the witness stand. “I am willing to testify but you can’t bring a charge up on the basis of a law that has been clearly contradicted by all the lawyers and there is no evidence of it being broken,” he said
Declaring that throughout his 21-year log tenure at NICIL/Privatisation Unit, “I am confident in my integrity” and that it was inconceivable how he could be charged based on the forensic audits. He said Goolsarran did not take into account the legal advice that NICIL had received from the top five reputable law firms, board deliberations, cabinet and the National Assembly. He queried whether those who claimed that NICIL had done something wrong had been saying that the entire government, cabinet, board members, accounting agencies of counterparts also acted illegally.
“I believe at best that a lot of what is being said by Mr. Goolsarran are opinions of a legal nature which are not backed up by evidence on that. On the other hand, we have many years of practice where these things had been happening. We have legal opinions that state that we are within our jurisdictions to conduct these transactions…,” he said.
Brassington said it was only through the Chairman of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Dr. Maurice Odle, was provided to that company. The NICIL boss said the process suggests that there was no illegality and, on the contrary, the forensic auditor is commenting on legal matters in his report but does not provide legal opinions from experts to back up his contentions. “We have no legal precedent to suggest that anything that we are doing here… to prove that. We have legal precedents that say that what we are allowed to do is within the law,” he said.
Ahead of a review of the final draft audit reports and the provision of its comments, Brassington denied any wrongdoing and that all privatization decisions, major contracts and major matters are approved by Cabinet.
He noted that audits of NICIL by the Office of the Auditor General up to 2013 have no found anything shady. “The audit opinion of NICIL is a clean audit opinion for every year under my leadership- 2002 to date. Brassington challenged Goolsarran, a former Guyana Auditor General, to state that the financial audit was not properly done and provide evidence to support his position,” said Brassington who said he received permission from the Board to appear before the media and defend NICIL’s integrity.
The Head of NICIL and the Privatisation Unit denied that US$5 million had been hidden in a secret bank account. Instead, he explained that GYD$1 billion was advanced by the Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB) to NICIL based on the Office of the President’s authority to be invested in the Marriott Hotel. However, the money was returned to GNCB earlier this year, he said, and Republic Bank’s loan funds have become available. “There was nothing hidden, there was no secret, it was fully known to the NICIL Board, it was fully known to the auditors when they looked at NICIL,” he said.
Having offered an explanation for each of the several alleged improprieties by NICIL, Brassington described his relationship with the coalition administration as cordial and professional. He said he was willing to continue serving to ensure that more earmarked projects are realized, but at the same time if he was willing to step down. “If the government said they don’t want me, I am fine with that,” he said, recalling that he stayed on although he had told the previous government that he had wanted to demit office.
Already built are the Berbice Bridge and Marriott Hotel and being examined are the Specialty Hospital and the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project. The expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport is continuing apace.