The APNU+AFC Government yesterday announced that it has ordered head of NICIL, Winston Brassington, and his deputy to proceed on immediate leave and has instructed that files be turned over to the police for further investigations to ascertain if any “criminality” was involved in the management of the government holding company.
“In Cabinet’s view there is sufficient information, provided in the report to the agencies, for them to explore further and basically dig deeper,” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said at a post cabinet press briefing yesterday. He said that Brassington and his deputy Marcia Nadir-Sharma have been sent on leave with immediate effect to facilitate investigations by the Guyana Police Force and the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) stemming from the forensic audit report recently done on the entity.
The audit by former Auditor-General Anand Goolsarran, among other things, recommended criminal and/or disciplinary action against all those responsible for the interception of state revenues totalling $26.858 billion in violation of the constitution. He had said that several laws were broken.
Yesterday, Harmon said the report and accompanying notes of Goolsarran and Minister of Finance Winston Jordan would be handed to the Commissioner of Police and SOCU who will take the process forward. He said Cabinet also requested that the report be sent to the Auditor-General so that a more precise audit can be undertaken and instructed that the Minister of Finance give the instruction for a Transaction Audit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to be conducted.
Brassington is currently out of the country and when contacted by Stabroek News yesterday, expressed shock at government saying he was sent on leave when, according to him, he had proceeded on vacation from his accumulated two-month vacation time. He said both Minister of Finance Jordan and NICIL’s Board are aware of this.
Stabroek News understands that Nadir-Sharma is also on vacation leave and is scheduled to return to work on the 7th of January, 2016. She too is surprised by government declaring that she was sent off.
Harmon said he did not want to “second guess what the police would find” but added that the two agencies were given the documents regarding NICIL to ascertain if any “criminality” was involved in the management of government’s holding company.
The decision comes two months after the forensic audit report into NICIL was submitted to government. In recent weeks, the government has faced persistent questions as to why it had not acted on the report.
On Monday, Brassington held a defiant press conference in which he rejected many of the assertions contained in Goolsarran’s report.
“As far as I know, and in good faith, 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 and the only way this matter can be determined is if this matter goes to court and be heard and no one has ever challenged us,” he told reporters at a press conference at his office. He added that Goolsarran’s comments were not backed up by evidence and the audit report did not take into account NICIL’s comments and sought to dismiss the findings.
“A lot of what is being said by Mr. Goolsarran are opinions of a legal nature which are not backed up by evidence. On the other hand, we have many years of practice where these things have been happening. We have legal opinions that state that we are within our jurisdiction to conduct these transactions, we have clean audit reports for many years which indicated that NICIL’s accounts were prepared in accordance with proper accounting standards, audited and we have clean opinions,” he declared.
“If someone is saying we did something wrong are they saying the entire government who made the decision? Cabinet? The board members? The counter agencies that are the other parties? Did they act illegally?” Brassington questioned.
He was critical of the report and said the final draft was only presented to him last week even as he provided a copy with NICIL’s attached comments. Brassington was also critical of the breakdown of Goolsarran’s report. He asserted that he expected more of a structured breakdown that was devoid of opinions and focused on facts.
Goolsarran has rejected Brassington’s comments and said the findings of the audit are backed by legal support and despite a hostile response from NICIL which placed a severe restriction on the audit, he tried his best to incorporate as many explanations as possible provided by the entity.
Brassington yesterday told Stabroek News that he is scheduled to return to work on the 23rd of January 2016 and has not yet received notification of being sent on administrative leave.