Former attorney-general Anil Nandlall is calling on the government to release the forensic audits on the ‘Pradoville’ housing scheme and the country’s hosting of World Cup Cricket, while arguing that persons who may face prosecution are clueless as to alleged wrongdoings and therefore cannot prepare a proper defence.
“Because of the implication it has on the administration of justice, the impact that it has on a person’s ability to properly prepare a defence, and in the interest of transparency and full and frank disclosure, I call upon the government to release all the reports now,” Nandlall told Stabroek News yesterday.
“The audits are not made public; worse yet, they are not given to the persons whose conduct they have impugned and who are now being charged. The entire process is one that is clandestine and flies in the face of fairness, natural justice and the rule of law. I do not know of any person who has been contacted, at least from the leadership of the PPP, in relationship to the investigations of these two agencies. The entire process is a cloak and dagger procedure to ambush persons. This is the antithesis of the rule of law,” he argued.
His call for the release of the forensic reports comes even as Attorney-General Basil Williams informed that he was compiling a list of special prosecutors for specified cases.
Williams made it clear that he was not the one to blame for the non-release of the audit reports as he was only dealing with the selection of special prosecutors. “I had nothing to do with the reports.
I am not dealing with any reports, I am dealing with appointing a special prosecution team, getting people to be prosecutors in whatever matters,” Williams stated.
In giving an update on how the selection process is going, Williams would only say, “We are working on it. It is a work in progress.”
Government has said that upon its examination of the audit reports on Pradoville 2 and the hosting of World Cup Cricket in 2007 under the former PPP/C administration, it concluded that in both cases there were indications of criminal culpability that required further investigation and Williams was entrusted with putting together two prosecuting teams.
The final reports of the audits were recently handed over to Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud for investigation.
But Nandlall says that he cannot understand how government has moved to the appointment of special prosecutors when persons named in the reports have not only not been given the right of reply to the audit teams but have not seen the final reports.
He said government keeping the audits secret was something that his party has bemoaned from the start of the processes. “We have spoken at length about the government’s unfair and perhaps unlawful approach to the forensic audits which have been conducted. We are not witnessing that charges are being instituted from these audits, which vindicated what I said all along about the modus operandi and methodology used to do these audits. I previously explained that a forensic audit is a dispassionate, objective assessment of the financial affairs of an entity, with a view of identifying wrongdoing and wrongdoers,” Nandlall asserted.
“From the inception, I pointed out that the process by which these auditors were selected was unfair, was prejudicial and would taint the entire process of the audit and will eventually affect any criminal proceedings which may flow,” he added.
Nandall also rained criticism on the auditors, saying that they were partisan. “These auditors were handpicked by a minister; most of them are known supporters of the administration. Some of them are known critics of the very agencies they have been appointed to audit and making allegations of financial impropriety against these agencies long before any audit started and while the audits were being conducted, officers of these agencies, whose conduct have been impugned by these audits, were never afforded a fair and equal opportunity to answer to any of the improprieties in relation to which adverse findings have made against them,” he said.
“In fact, many of these officers desperately tried to get an opportunity to be heard by these auditors and were refused such facilities and as a result resorted to the letter columns of the daily newspapers in an attempt to vindicate their innocence,” he added.
Nandlall charged that Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who has announced the completion of the audits at his post-Cabinet press briefings, feeds the press with selective excerpts of the reports but remains mum when asked about making them public. “Mr. Harmon has found every reason under the sun for not disclosing these audits whenever he is asked at his press conference,” he said, while adding that if there is evidence of rampant corruption, then the government should be most anxious and excited to pour it out on the front pages of the newspapers and on television screens. “We are seeing on the other hand, a paucity of information… excerpts of these reports are being leaked to certain sections of the press who are wreaking havoc in sensationalising unsubstantiated and selected portions of these reports. The government is hiding something,” he added.