GEA board concerned over SOCU search warrant

Saying the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) has been cooperating with ongoing investigations, its Board of Directors yesterday voiced concern over the execution of a warrant by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to search the agency’s Quamina Street, Georgetown headquarters on Thursday.

In a statement issued yesterday, the GEA Board of Directors reiterated its cooperation with the ongoing SOCU investigation but noted its concern over the execution of the “highly publicised search warrant.”

The Board noted that at no time was the GEA “reluctant, unavailable, or uncooperative in the submission and handover” of the requested documents. “Rather, on receipt of letter dated October 4, 2017 from SOCU to the GEA which requested a list of information, the GEA provided all required documentation within a two week period, save and except for documents and vouchers in excess of two thousand files for which the GEA, in its response, noted the potential impracticality due to its sheer volume and invited the Investigating Team to visit the GEA office at its convenience to review the files in totality. Again, while we respect SOCU’s mandate, we respectfully submit therefore that the search warrant was not necessary in this instance,” it said.

According to the Board, the GEA had informed SOCU that documents requested were quite voluminous and were also the financial records of the Agency, which must be kept for the purposes of audit. Nonetheless, it indicated that full access to the documents at the GEA’s headquarters would be granted to the investigating team, which could be accommodated in the boardroom, as was done during the course of the forensic audit.

In light of this, the statement said the Board of Directors is communication with the Head of SOCU Sydney James to enquire about the “reported ‘challenges’ faced in obtaining information required” and “Whether the information provided was sufficient.”

“The Board of Directors wishes to advise that files have been provided and once again reaffirms the cooperation of the GEA in any and all ongoing investigations,” it concluded.

SOCU executed the warrant as part of its investigation into the findings of a forensic audit of the GEA that was conducted by Nigel Hinds Financial Services last year. The audit report had recommended “strong disciplinary action” against the GEA Chief Executive Officer 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 highlighted that concerns over 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.

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