By Kiana Wilburg
If the country’s Auditor General (AG) gives an unflattering opinion for the financial operations of a company,
then it is quite normal for it to request a “do-over.” At least this is so, in the eyes of Winston Brassington, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
His comments came in wake of a forensic report on NICIL which exposes how former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, requested that the Auditor General’s negative comments be removed from the report on the financial statements of the Cricket World Cup (CWC).
To support this, the forensic audit report made reference to the minutes on NICIL’s board meeting of February 29, 2012, where Brassington referred to the qualified opinion issued by the Auditor General on the Cricket World Cup 2007 accounts.
The former Minister of Finance was recorded as having stated that, “The AG’s qualification of the accounts needs to be removed from CWC Inc.’s Annual Report.”
Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, said that the minutes of the meeting revealed that NICIL was also asked to produce a paper for the former Cabinet to “debunk allegations in the accounts and otherwise but AS/HPS (Ashni Singh or former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon) will speak to our principals first. Once a mechanism is cleared then NICIL should pursue the AG to remove the qualifications.”
He emphasized, however, that any intervention by NICIL and/or Cabinet to influence the work of the Auditor General is inappropriate.
In defence of Dr. Singh’s actions, NICIL commented, “The draft audit opinion contained qualifications
due to the lack of information that was under the control of third parties and not under NICIL. The help of the Minister and HPS was sought to nudge the relevant ministries to provide outstanding documents/information, so the qualification could be removed.”
Goolsarran said that it is not clear if NICIL followed through with Dr. Singh’s instructions but noted that if it did, then such an action would be considered an act of professional misconduct.
However, Brassington confirmed yesterday that NICIL followed through with Dr. Singh’s instructions and it is pending at the moment.
He said, “When an audit is done, an audit opinion is put forward and if it is qualified it is because we did not have enough time to provide all the information and explanations they need so that the opinion can be improved.
“That is what happened here. We had accounting officers who had left and there were gaps in the information. Dr. Singh didn’t want to have a qualification. He asked for the AG to have a complete set of information and that is quite normal. It is usually a Director’s desire to ensure that they resolve all things.”
Brassington said that the former Finance Minister did not act in an unethical manner and emphasized that it is quite normal for agencies to request an opportunity to improve the qualification to their reports.