Customs bribery probe report for Parliament on Thursday – Jagdeo

President Bharrat Jagdeo said he has instructed the Finance Minister to have the Auditor General’s report into allegations of bribery at customs tabled in Parliament on Thursday when the house resume sittings, declaring that he “wants the report to see the light of day”.

Jagdeo confirmed yesterday during a press conference at State House that he has issued the necessary instructions.

He said the issue was discussed at the level of Cabinet which met yesterday.

“I want the report to see the light of day, and I want Members of Parliament to see the report,” the President said when asked about the report, which was completed about a month ago and passed to him.

Fielding questions about whether the decision to have the report sent to him was in keeping with the law, specifically, the Audit Act No. 5 of 2004, the President said the report was commissioned by the Executive, and therefore broke no laws.

He stressed that this particular report was “a bit different than the routine annual audit” of the country’s accounts carried out by the Auditor General, which as a requirement of law is presented to the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Specifically, Section 28 of the Audit Act, states that the Auditor General “shall, in accordance with Article 223(3) of the Constitution, submit his reports to the Speaker of the National Assembly, who shall cause them to be laid before the Assembly”.

Jagdeo emphasized that the report was commissioned by the executive and, and that it is for a minister of government to have it tabled in Parliament. The President said he was not going to get into a public debate and or controversy over it [the report].

“I am not going to make a big issue of interpretation because whether it goes through the Speaker or Minister of Finance the purpose would be served, that is, the report would be tabled in Parliament… I am not going to make a big issue of procedure,” he stated.

Stabroek News contacted Acting Auditor General Deodat Sharma earlier in the day on the same issue and he supported what the President said, noting that the report in question was unlike regular reports from his office.

He explained that the President had set up a task force to investigate the Customs and Trade Administration (CTA) following the Fidelity Polar beer scandal and pointed out that the report was a task force report, and not “a routine report from our office”.

Sharma said too, that the task force selected him to head the body, adding that it could have been another individual. He stressed that the report was initiated by the President and the task force had to report back to the Head of State.

The report offers details into the bribery scandal that rocked the CTA and documents a series of interviews with those alleged to have been involved.

It also contains key recommendations as regards officials at customs and a string of others allegedly tied to the fraud; suggesting that criminal charges be instituted in some instances. Specif-ically, the report recommends charges against Fidelity Investments, the company at the centre of the investigation and the scandal.

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