A forensic audit into the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) from the period of October 2012 to May 2015, found that former Minister of Government under the former regime, Shaik Baksh – during his tenure as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – in several instances, breached established company policies and procedures and abused his authority while executing his functions at the agency.
During an emergency meeting held on May 28, 2015 by the Chairman, Board of Directors, other board members and Senior Management officials, several reports of irregularities regarding Baksh’s conduct were made.
These included the alleged procurement of 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 etc.
An investigation was launched to establish/determine the accuracy of the allegations.
According to the “Investigation Report”, the scope of the examination was conducted with standard fraud examination techniques, which included the examination of records; interviews with relevant personnel, and “any other such evidence-gathering procedures as necessary under the circumstances”.
ALLEGED PROCUREMENT OF BILLBOARDS
Leading up to the May 11, 2015 General Elections, many billboards were erected throughout the country to inform the populace about the advancements being made by the entity to improve its water distribution process.
However, these billboards carried an additional feature – “Vote PPP/C” was seen attached to some. This, leading up to the elections, resulted in a few raised eyebrows.
Neil Sukhlal, Managing Director of Impressions Advertising – the company that designed, printed and erected billboards for GWI – had stated there were monies that were still owed to him by GWI for his services. He also claimed that his original works for the billboards did not include the PPP/C logo and it might have been placed there by unknown individuals from the party.
However, Officials from GWI, who initiated the project, claimed that the billboards were erected to enable residents across the country to be reminded of the progress that was being made in the various constructions undertaken by GWI, the report stated.
Impressions constructed the billboards at a unit cost of G$300,000 each (a total of G$6,000,000) with the original design of the billboards set to be affixed with Guyana’s Coat of Arms and the GWI logo. However, upon verification of the billboards located at Covent Garden and Eccles, it was revealed that they were instead originally created with the VOTE PPP/C logo, the report indicated.
On May 8th 2015, Baksh stated on the justification for the billboards location and designs that “the designs were reviewed by me and PR (Public Relations) Unit and are in conformity with GWI’s Water Infrastructural Projects and Community Awareness Programme, Proceed early”.
The report stated that this was contrary to statements given by the DF and the Public Relations Officer (PRO) on designs/specifications and funding source.
The auditors came to several conclusions, with one being that the billboards were not done in accordance to original designs and specifications – that there was no evidence to substantiate that the supplier – Impressions – was instructed to affix the PPP/C party logo on billboards, however, it was possible that this could have been done unofficially.
The auditors recommended that disciplinary action should be taken against Baksh and other officers where applicable, in accordance to GWI policy and procedures.
Further, the supplier – Impressions, should not be paid since he was found to be dishonest and works were not to the standard requirements.
There were also allegations leveled against Baksh about the misappropriation of cash advance for site visits and unauthorized cash refunds.
The auditors also found that for the period January 2014 to May 2015, a total of $3.9M was issued to Baksh and his employees “performing duties as his Executive Assistant to facilitate official field trips.”
On March 28, 2012 a contract was entered into between GWI and S. Jagmohan Hardware Supplies and Constructing Services and Nabi Construction Inc., Joint Venture/Consortium for the Georgetown Sanitation Program – Priority Works for the Installation of Force Mains.
Under the contract’s Special Conditions of Contract, the Contractor was required to provide a specific list of facilities for the Engineer’s location which included one Double Cab Pickup (new or reconditioned). The Contractor tendered a quoted price of $4,700,000 from Associated Industries Limited (AINLIM) for a Nissan Frontier 4×4 Double Cab Pickup – ‘DX’ – Diesel.
The pickup was to be utilised for the sole purpose of site visits and verification of works to be done by GWI’s Project Manager and Engineer on the contract.
The Internal Audit Department reported that the Vehicle PPP 9050 was never used on the contract under which it was acquired. The Project Manager and Engineer had to resort to the use of assigned vehicles from GWI’s vehicles pool, which is shared throughout the company on a first come, first serve basis. This significantly hampered the work of the Project Manager and Engineer throughout the duration of the contract.’
The persons authorized to operate vehicle PPP 9050 were an assigned driver and Baksh. The vehicle was involved in an accident on the 3rd May, 2015. At the time of the accident, the vehicle was being driven by Baksh’s son who was not authorized to do so. After the accident, the vehicle was a complete write off.
Baksh resigned on June 18, 2015 and the Board acknowledged his resignation letter on June 24, 2015.