SOCU officers visit GEA HQ as part of probe

As part of its investigation into the findings of a forensic audit of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), officers of Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) yesterday visited the entity’s Quamina Street, Georgetown headquarters.

Stabroek News was told that the officers were able to look at some documents but it was unclear if any were taken away or if anyone was asked to report to the unit’s Camp Street Headquarters for questioning.

SOCU officers, including agency head Sydney James, arrived at the location shortly after 10 am. A search warrant was earlier issued by a city magistrate.

A forensic audit conducted by Nigel Hinds Financial Services last year recommended “strong disciplinary action” against the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Mahender Sharma for alleged lax oversight of the fuel marking system that targets smuggling.

The audit was done for the period November 1, 2011 to May 31, 2015.

The report said its concern of an apparent compromise in the internal control procedures for the management of the Fuel Marking Concentrate was shared by Internal Auditor Valmiki Ramtahal in his reports for the periods January 14, 2012, April 15, 2012, July 10, 2012, September 10, 2012 and January 22, 2014.

The audit found that the out-turn reports for fuel marking were the primary source document for determining how much fuel has been marked and how much to charge oil companies for fuel marking. However, the documents were not independently validated by GEA.

The forensic audit report also found that inventory reconciliation of all the stock of GEA is not done on a regular basis.

“Our investigations revealed that the physical verification of inventory items of the GEA is done every six months. It is a concern as to why physical counts of inventory are done so infrequently. The longer the time period between inventory reconciliation dates, the more difficult is the task of successfully investigating any discrepancies found between the inventory control records and the amount accounted for by a physical count,” the report stated.

Up to the end of February this year, SOCU was looking at 18 forensic audit reports, which had resulted in over 100 investigations.

Apart from the GEA, the audits reports concern the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), Cricket World Cup 2007, the Sparendaam Housing Project (Pradoville 2), the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL), the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary-Agriculture Development Authority, the Guyana Office for Investment, the Hydrometeorological Office, the National Communications Network (NCN), the Marriott Hotel, GuyOil, the Guyana Gold Board, the National Frequency Management Unit, the One Laptop Per Family project, the E-Governance Project and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

So far, SOCU has managed to file criminal charges in relation to the GRDB and GMC investigations. The file pertaining to ‘Pradoville 2’ is still being reviewed by legal advisors.

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