A recent Audit Report into the operations of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO- Invest) under the previous government revealed multiple irregular transactions and financial irregularities.
The report cited that Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Incorporated was given multiple concessions that exceeded $1.8 Billion from 2012 to 2015, without honouring their commitment to set up and operate a wood processing factory in Guyana.
Bai Shan Lin received its first Investment Agreement in February 2007, yet there is no record of concessions being granted to the company from 2007 to 2011 from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) or GO-Invest.
The Audit Report which was handed over to Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma recently stated that, neither Go-Invest nor GRA was able to provide any information on actual product concession granted to Bai Shan Lin or any other investor, due to lax monitoring mechanisms.
Other companies such as Vaitarna Holding Private Incorporated received $217M from 2011 to 2014.
The report also revealed that there was no clear policy at GO-Invest for remuneration of employees. It stated that the CEO dealt with this process in a discretionary manner. It revealed that a most unusual situation obtained at GO-Invest where the Accountant performed the duties of the Human Resources Manager. The accounting policy of the agency is not properly documented as it relates to processing of payments, desktop procedures and internal controls. As a consequence, systems were not in place to accurately account for procurement transactions.
Additionally, the report stated that misuse of authority by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Keith Burrowes was evidenced in several transactions, where the CEO took loans amounting to over $3M, without approval from the Board.
According to the report, the CEO was not entitled to an entertainment allowance or salary advance(s) from GO-Invest since his salary was funded from Guyana National Co-operative Bank/Guyana Co-operative Financial Services. However, as at July 31, 2015 Burrowes had personal loans from GO-Invest amounting to $3,231,050. The outstanding amount was fully repaid by February of 2016.
The then CEO of GO-Invest instructed that his personal driver be paid a sum of $232,365 for carrying out duties as a driver although the driver was not an employee of GO-Invest. This instruction was given by memorandum dated December 22, 2014 and executed on December 23, 2014.
The hiring function was conducted in an ad hoc manner thus allowing the CEO to solely make hiring decisions. The Accountant/Human Resources Officer/Administrative Officer had little or no input in the recruitment and selection process.
The report also said that the Procurement Act of 2003 was not followed or referenced. Procurement decisions were made invariably without any Invitation for Bids or for three quotations.
The procurement policy used by GO-Invest was not documented, and in many instances, files examined had undated draft Investment Agreements, which undermined the integrity of the documentation process for a key area of GO-Invest’s responsibilities, the report stated.
This opened the verification and review process to opportunities for forgery and undermined the use of an audit trail among other discrepancies, the report further stated.