Grove/Diamond NDC Chairman not hopeful about outcome of $20M embezzlement probe

Although there has been some progress in the investigation of the embezzlement of over $20 million from the Golden Grove/ Diamond Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), Chairman of the local authority Bharrat Narine says he is not optimistic that anything will come of the matter any time soon.

Speaking to Stabroek News last week, Narine said that the NDC was recently contacted by the auditor of the Ministry of Communities who requested the internal report on the alleged embezzlement of the NDC’s money by a tax collector.

“They requested the internal report we would’ve generated when we did our internal audit and since then we would’ve delivered it to them. Again, at the regional level we had a meeting last Tuesday and it is now on the local government department report that the status of the matter is being actively taken up by the Ministry,” Narine explained.

He also said the police contacted the NDC for an update on the status of the auditor’s report.

“They [Guyana Police Force] said that they can’t do anything until they get the auditor’s report. But based on my experience, whenever it pops up in the media you would find people running around and then it starts dropping off again. I still don’t understand why some people are not being questioned. I am not very optimistic at this point in time,” Narine said, while pointing out that even though he does not expect anything to come of the matter, he hopes that they are able to recover the money, which would be useful for the NDC’s plans in the communities they oversee.

More than a year ago, Narine launched an internal investigation that uncovered that the NDC was defrauded of over $20 million during the 2015 to 2016 period.

He had explained to this newspaper that while at the end of 2016 the records showed that the NDC had collected only $37.5 million, at the end of 2017 it was able to collect $74.5 million, almost double from the previous year. He had also pointed out that despite only collecting money for the first quarter of this year, it has already received over $30 million, which excluded revenues from its largest taxpayer – DDL – which was expected to bring in a further $17 million.

Narine explained that since he became a member of the NDC in 2016, he was part of the Finance Committee and had suspected that something was going wrong since the income did not match the NDC’s budget. In January, 2017, he was elected to take up the helm of the NDC and one of his first decisions was to launch the investigation.

After about two weeks and auditing some 60% of their documents, Narine explained that it was discovered that $21 million was missing. They then subsequently submitted all the documentation and files to the police force’s fraud squad.

The police made two attempts to visit the tax collector’s home, which did not bear any fruit, and Narine explained that nothing else has been done since and the NDC had not received any feedback.

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