Statement by Hon. Menissa Rambally on the Investigation into the National Conversation Authority
Statement by the Minister for Social Transformation,
Culture and Local Government
Hon. Menissa Rambally
on the Investigation into the National Conversation Authority
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The report was subsequently reviewed by Cabinet and the outcome of that process leaves now for me, in my capacity as Minister with responsibility for the NCA, to report on the findings and indicate the way forward.
1. Allegation of cheque issued to H & M Holdings Inc. to purchase cellular telephones in 2001
It was alleged that this cheque was endorsed by the General Manager of the Authority and cashed by him.
The findings revealed that a company registered under the name H & M Holding existed in 2001. The cellular phones were purchased from the Company. The proceeds of the cheque went into the Company’s account and was not cashed by the General Manager.
(page 8 of Executive Summary)
Cheque for $3,000.00 in 2001 was presented for payment at the Royal Bank of Canada.
Royal Bank of Canada confirmed that the cheque was deposited in the H & M Inc. account.
The investigation revealed that the company H & M Inc. is a registered company in St. Lucia. (Contrary to the ridiculous suggestion that the initials represent “Henry and Menissa”, the registry confirms that it is a company owned by H. Sallapudi and M. Vaswani. Hence the initials H & M.
The telephones were distributed to the Ranger Department. Some of these telephones are still in use while others are under repair.
2. Payment to Mr. Daniel Louis for procurement of radios for the use of the Rangers.
The findings revealed that Mr. Daniel Louis was paid on January 17, 2001 the sum of $30,857.00
3. Magna Cards
It was alleged that there existed a statement showing thousands of dollars in payment to Mr. Charles in Magna Point rewards and whenever a NCA vehicle had to be supplied with petrol the card presented to the service station was that of Mr. Henry Charles.
The investigation revealed that Mr. Charles, General Manager is in possession of a Magna Card.
A letter received from the Manager, Magna Rewards St. Lucia Ltd. dated March 3, 2005, confirmed Magna transactions from the inception of the Magna program in St. Lucia. The bulk of the spending was done at one of the participating supermarkets. The Magna card has not been in use since May 2003. The total value of cheques redeemed was $115.10. (Appendix 19A of Report)
4. Sale of used gymnasium equipment to the National Conservation Authority by Ms. Cepal in 2001
It was alleged that the equipment was defective and never became fully functional.
The investigation revealed that the sale was legitimate, however a recommendation for the application of a set of standards and procedures needed to be employed in effecting such purchases.
The Investigator confirmed that the equipment was located. At the time of the investigation two (2) pieces of equipment were defective.
5. Preparation of Financial Statements
It was observed that there were no financial statements prepared for 2000/2001.
During that period, only an Accounting Clerk manned the section. The National Conservation Authority did not operate a fully functional accounting system during the financial periods 2000/2001 and 2001/2002.
The financial statements for the period 2001/2002 are being submitted in 2005 as the existing Accounting Department is working on its preparation.
For the financial year 2002/2003 Bank Reconciliation Statements for the main accounts were prepared, but financial statements were incomplete.
For the financial year 2003/2004 the same applied as for 2002/2003.
The investigation revealed notable improvement in the period 2004 as they related to procedural practices.
6. Adherence to Procedures
The investigation revealed that in some instances proper approval was not sought from the Board.
The investigation revealed that this was not a Board policy but there were instances were such advances were made in cases that included incidence of fire, sickness or death in the family.
It was noted that the system of recovery of these advances is non-systematic and ineffective.
The investigation revealed that there is an outstanding advance of $4,000.00 from 2001 to the Chairman.
It is recommended that this outstanding advance be recovered.
7. Alleged misuse of National Conservation Authority Funds
A cheque for $500.00 was issued to the Gaming Authority in 2002 to purchase a gaming licence application form for a prospective hotelier to be refunded to the Authority. The amount has not been recovered.
As per Par 4 Section 12(1) of the Act, the Authority shall apply its funds towards the discharging of its obligations or performing its functions under the Act.
The report suggests that this transaction did not comply with the said provision.
In summary, the report reveals the following:
It should be noted that the investigation dates back to the financial period 2000/2001 to the present, and that there have been improved procedural practices during the period under review.
Notwithstanding, the current Board and Management of the NCA must take responsibility for the deficiencies.
In this regard, taking into account the recommendations as presented by the Investigator and following Cabinet’s consideration of the said report, I am convinced that what is required for the NCA at this time is a fresh start.
Consequently, I have decided to revoke the appointment of the existing Board with immediate effect.
As you may be aware, during the investigation the General Manager served on a month-to-month basis. Consistent with the position that I have just outlined, the post of General Manager will be advertised. Mr. Charles’ tenure with the National Conservation Authority has come to an end.
A new Interim Board of Directors will be appointed under the Chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Transformation with immediate effect.
The Interim Board will have a life of 90 days and will be mandated to oversee the implementation of the following:
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