Baksh says audit intended to embarrass
GWI forensic audit– claims auditors ignored explanations to Board Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) Shaik Baksh, believes the forensic audit into the utility which accused him of financial improprieties and abuse of power, is aimed atFormer GWI CEO Shaik Bakshembarrassing him and witch-hunting top executives.According to the audit report released by the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday, it was found that Baksh, while at the helm of GWI, had breached established company policies and procedures, and abused his authority.Among some of the allegations levelled against the former CEO during emergency meeting on May 28, 2015, are: alleged procurement of ‘political’ billboards for the May 11, 2015 elections campaign; the misuse of cash advances for site visits, abuse of authority in using the company assets, overriding company policies, among othersHowever in a statement on Tuesday Baksh explained that an internal audit was already conducted and explanations proffered to the board about the allegations. He further noted that the auditor – Ram and McRae Chartered Accountant – did not seek any explanations from him on the various matters listed under the item Chief Executive Officer in the report.“This is a clear breach of professional and international auditing standards and procedures. Further, the Auditor intentionally excluded my detailed explanation to the Board of Directors in June 2015 since a hearing was conducted on these same matters,” the former GWI head stated.He explained that the board had even taken a decision on the matter and this was communicated to him via a letter dated June 17, 2015. In that letter, Baksh said, having reviewed his response to the various queries raised by the Internal Auditor, the board was dissatisfied with the explanation provided with respect to the accident involving vehicle PPP 9050. The vehicle, belonging to the company, was being driven by the former CEO’s son at the time of the accident.In this regard, Baksh said the board requested he repay the assessed valuation of the vehicle in the sum of $4,500,000, to which he agreed. He noted that repayment commenced in July 2015 and will end in June 2016.“I tendered my resignation from GWI which the board accepted by waiving the required three months’ notice and paying me all the benefits. The question to be asked is: why did the forensic auditor intentionally reproduced the Internal Auditor’s report to the Board and did not include my responses to each of the matters,” the former CEO pointed out.Baksh believes it was the auditor’s objective to suppress information that would have “miniaturised and obliterated his frivolous findings. The initiation of an investigation against the CEO was the result of external directives to the chairman of the board after the May 11, 2015 Elections, and is meant to embarrass and witch-hunt top executives and replace them with persons affiliated to the new regime,” he added.Moreover, the former GWI head explained that as it relates to the advances for site visits, they were all cleared by him and approved by the Director of Finance and no query was ever raised.All these site visits were made in furtherance of the Hinterland Water Strategy and in keeping with the advances taken, he said, while noting that the relevant regional officers, village councils and communities in the various regions would be able to attest to this.He further stated that the contract of employment, which he accepted, was drawn up by the relevant authorities in terms of remunerations and conditions of service and that payment of gratuity was based on good leadership and management provided by him.“The many managerial initiatives, innovation, systems improvements and strategies implemented can easily be found in GWI’s documentation. All of these were designed to turn the Utility around, having regard to the state of the company when I took over as Chief Executive,” the former CEO stated.Baksh outlined too that the then board and top management especially the chairman, and the directors of finance and human resources were aware of the above contributions and it can be implied that they by their non-objection approved of the payment of the gratuity and programmed it in the payroll without any solicitation by me.Nevertheless, the former GWI head posited that the company was under good management under his tenure and for each of three years, received unqualified audit opinions from the external auditors after failing to achieve this important objective for several years.“In this regard, there is no surprise whatsoever that no financial irregularities had been unearthed by the Forensic Auditor in the multibillion dollar utility except that spurious and speculative observations were made of clearing of advances taken by the Chief Executive to further the community outreach of GWI in the hinterland,” he stated.