Ramotar still has no answer on NCN probe report

Two years on…

Almost two years after an inquiry uncovered financial irregularities at the state broadcaster NCN, President Donald Ramotar had no answer yesterday when asked why he had not done anything about the findings.

“I wasn’t prepared for that question at this point in time but I’ll probably look into it and see if I can give you an answer after…,” the President said while responding to a question from Stabroek News at a news conference at the Office of the President. He smiled as the question was being asked. “You have a memory like an elephant,” he said, then laughed and said that he wasn’t prepared for the question.

The President, who is also the Minister of Information was asked about the issue at prior news conferences but despite promises, he has not revealed what action he will take against officials implicated in the financial scandal. Ramotar has made several promises to reveal what, if any, action he was going to take in relation to the findings of the probe but thus far has failed to do so. Last April, he had said that he would make his decision known “very soon.”

His lack of action on this matter comes in the wake of a report released by a committee of experts from the Organisation of American States last Friday which said that Guyana needed an anti-corruption strategy and specialized units to tackle graft. The committee members also pointed to the few prosecutions of corruption and the lack of data on these cases.

Former NCN Pro-gramme Manager, Martin Goolsarran and NCN’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mohammed ‘Fuzzy’ Sattaur were implicated in the scandal.

In January last year, Ramotar told a news conference that he planned to discuss the findings with the persons involved before saying what decisions will be made. Critics have said the reason why there has been no action is that the two persons at the centre of the probe have close ties to the ruling party and they visibly played up the positives of government on state TV while closing out the opposition from the airwaves. Analysts also see it as a litmus test of whether the government is serious about accountability and financial probity in the state sector.

In June 2012, the NCN Board launched an investigation into suspected financial irregularities at the network. Sattaur subsequently resigned and Goolsarran was suspended. He was initially suspended for eight weeks without pay for allegedly attempting to cover up financial irregularities by pressuring staff to prepare backdated invoices, among other things. The suspension was later extended indefinitely.

 

Jingle and song

 

Goolsarran was first sent on administrative leave in relation to a $3.9 million cheque made payable to him by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T)   as an incentive for the production team that worked during the company’s jingle and song competition, held between September 2011 and February 2012.

The decision to investigate the incentive payment was taken at a meeting by NCN board members in 2012 to examine how the cutting of the $82 million government subvention to $1 by the combined opposition, would affect the company.

At the time, board members were also examining a proposal by the management of the company on the way forward, in the light of the cut of the subvention. The board decided to dig deeper on seeing the proposal, since NCN had publicly indicated that most of its revenues come from advertising and that it raked in over $500 million in advertising revenue in 2011.

Parmesar Chartered Accountants was then hired to carry out a special investigation into the alleged financial irregularities and several breaches were uncovered.

Among other things, it stated that Goolsarran, in the presence of Sattaur, in June 2012, requested that the finance manager prepare an invoice to be dated January 2012 to cover production costs for the GT&T Jingle and Song competition for the period November 2011 to January 2012. The amount of the invoice was for $3.6 million but the employee refused to prepare the invoice “as no Job Order was given to her for these activities.” The employee told the investigators that Sattaur and Goolsarran made “a few requests” to her to prepare the invoice.

After the finance manager refused, the report said, Sattaur and Goolsarran instructed another employee to prepare a Job Order for the GT&T competition production services and forward it to the Finance Department for the preparation of an invoice. This employee also refused to carry out the instruction. “The two employees reported that they felt that it was unethical to prepare a Job Order that should have been prepared in the normal course of business since January 2012 and submitted to the Finance Department for invoicing in June 2012,” the report said.

Both Goolsarran and Sattaur had declined repeated requests by Stabroek News for responses to the allegations contained in the report.

The report also said that a copy of an invoice dated 10 January 2012 with Goolsarran’s home address was obtained.

This invoice was addressed to GT&T and represented production costs for the Jingle and Song Competition for November 2, 2011 to January 6, 2012. The report pointed out that the invoice amount was $3,620,000 which was the same amount and services that the finance manager was asked to prepare the invoice for in June 2012 and backdate to January 2012.

Goolsarran admitted that he received on two occasions, amounts totalling $3,930,000 in December 2011 from GT&T for production services. “These amounts were deposited in his personal bank account. He said that the $3,930,000 was paid to HJTV on two occasions for their services,” the report said. It noted that a receipt dated January 21, 2012 from HJTV was presented with details of two payments made by cash in December 2011 and January 2012 for a total of $3,930,000. “The details on the receipt referred to recording and editing of “GT&T Guyana Star 2011 Competition” which is a separate activity from GT&T Jingle and Song Competition,” the report said.

The report said that based on the evidence gathered, it could be concluded that Sattaur and Goolsarran failed in carrying out their duties diligently and professionally. “They have knowingly breached the Company’s internal control procedures. Their actions in dealing with the GT&T Jingle and Song Competition clearly demonstrated conflict of interest,” the report said while adding that their conduct tarnished the reputation of NCN and its management.

Further, a number of functions of other staff/ department were usurped by the two officers, the report said, adding, among other things, that they entered into arrangement with GT&T for the Jingle and Song Competition without a written agreement and further, this event was not referred to the ‘Rates and Special Events Commit-tee,’ which has responsibility for such events.

Among other things, the report said that Goolsarran submitted personal invoices to GT&T for production services provided by NCN, collected payments of $3,930,000 and deposited same into his personal bank account while reliability of payments of $3,930,000 to HJTV for production services could not be reliably verified.

Latest in Local News

default placeholder

Canal No.1 man shot in robbery

The police in ‘D’ Division say they are investigating a shooting incident during a robbery which occurred at 0100h. today committed on Shamiran Tebonie, 36 years, of Dudley Park, Canal No.

default placeholder

Guyana Goldfields in deal to expand production

Gold production at the Canadian-owned Guyana Goldfields Inc (GGI) for the first half of this year has been estimated at 75,000 ounces and the company has entered an agreement to expand the capacity of its Aurora mine in Cuyuni/Mazaruni.

default placeholder

Stealth flight plane grounded in Anguilla

One of two planes that left Guyana illegally under the cover of darkness on Saturday has been given clearance to leave Anguilla and the other was grounded in the British overseas territory, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson has said.

The remains of the home Satesh Jagmohan was occupying when tragedy struck

De Willem teen burns to death in house fire

A 19-year-old labourer perished in a mysterious fire which destroyed a two-bedroom house in the De Willem, West Coast Demerara (WCD) squatting area on Saturday night.

default placeholder

ExxonMobil set to drill more oil wells

American oil firm ExxonMobil will be drilling more wells after an appraisal well confirmed the presence of a significant deposit of oil in the location close to where the first well was drilled.

default placeholder

Implement anti-discrimination laws quickly – outgoing US Embassy Deputy

It is important that Guyana move quickly to enact anti-discrimination laws as discrimination and homophobia “is a very real problem” for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LBGT) community here, outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy here, Bryan Hunt has said.

Ishaan Caines

Coverden cop dies in Bamia accident

A police rank died on Saturday afternoon after he lost control of the car he was driving and it flipped over in the vicinity of the Bamia Creek on the Linden/Soesdyke highway.

A section of the gathering (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

Protected zones to be set up in all 10 regions

President David Granger on Friday said that protected areas will be established in all 10 regions of the country. The Ministry of the Presidency said in a release on Saturday that he was speaking at the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana’s (THAG) President’s Awards Ceremony 2016.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: