Former auditor general Anand Goolsarran is one week into his work of forensically auditing government holding company, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). Minister within the Ministry of Finance Jaipaul Sharma says that Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram will soon commence similar work on the Guyana Geology & Mines Commission and the Guyana Gold Board.
NICIL has attracted strong criticism as it has acted mostly as an investment agency for the government. It has retained large sums of money for various uses which critics have said should have been deposited into the Consolidated Fund.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Sharma, would only say that there are other government agencies that would undergo similar exercises. He also said that other accountants/firms would be used but some persons prefer that their names not be revealed.
Soon after taking office, the APNU+AFC government announced that several government agencies would undergo forensic audits. Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had named Goolsarran and Ram as two of the persons who would be conducting the audits. However, there have been some criticisms over the selection of these two individuals because they were fierce critics of the past administrations and the practices of some of the agencies named to be audited.
But Sharma argued that the two individuals would have been exercising their constitutional rights, adding that they are both professionals and are equipped to conduct the task at hand.
Sources have said that while the accounting bodies would be conducting the forensic audit, after this is done then a “forensic investigation” would be undertaken to identify any wrongdoing. One source said this is the reason that the audits by the accountants of the agencies would take at least three months. The source said that the government does not want the work to be dragged out and as such the accountants have their terms of reference and would work to suit.
Stabroek News also understands that Ram is expected to examine the accounts of the Berbice Bridge Company as the coalition government moves towards fulfilling one of its 100-day promises to reduce the bridge toll. This newspaper understands that the mechanism for this has not yet been established since, as one source pointed out, the company is a private entity. However, the source said that the government is determined to keep that promise. Berbicians have in the past complained bitterly about the bridge toll and it was based on these complaints that the coalition in opposition had promised that once elected they would reduce the toll.