Robert Persaud acted outside powers

– report cites unilateral appointments, ordering payment of phantom employees

Forensic auditors who examined the books of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) have concluded that former

Former Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud
Former Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud, on several occasions, acted contrary to the powers vested in him.
The Gold Board Act vests in the Minister the power to give directions of a general or special character as to the policy to be followed by the Board and also requires the Minister to approve the appointment of, and the remuneration payable to, the General Manager, Secretary and such other officers and other employees.
However, the 114-page report from the audit conducted by Chartered Accounting Firm Ram and McRae said Persaud was guilty of several breaches, including, on many occasions, acting contrary to the Act.
Among those breaches, the auditors highlighted, was the appointment of Senior Policy Analyst/Adviser in the Ministry, Bobby Gossai, as Secretary to the Guyana Gold Board, which is contrary to the powers vested in the Minister.
“In our opinion, the Act does not give the Minister the power to name or nominate the Secretary to the Board and the Minister’s action amounted to a usurpation of the Board’s authority,” the auditors said in the report.

Unjustified expenses
The auditors added that included in the expenses paid by the Guyana Gold Board were payments made on behalf of the Natural Resources and the Environment Ministry, totalling $63.1 million for the period January 1, 2012 to May 31, 2015.
Included in the above amount are mainly payments for salaries, gratuity, leave passage allowances and entertainment expenses.
“The payments are clearly a means of circumventing the Appropriation Act and action should be taken against those responsible for the payments. However, the Directors of the Gold Board cannot escape culpability for the payments which were not proper expenses of the Board.    It should be noted that the Guyana Gold Board has not been reimbursed for any payments made on behalf of the Ministry,” the report stated.
It added that the employment contracts of several individuals engaged to undertake duties at the Ministry were entered in to between the Guyana Gold Board and those persons.
“The Board should terminate all current contracts for employees of the Ministry and have the Ministry issue such contracts directly,” it recommended.
The auditors said that the then Minister and his Ministry may have misinterpreted the Gold Board Act and have, on occasion, given instructions to management on operational issues, including matters relating to contracts.
It singled out one occasion when Persaud advised the Gold Board through Gossai that the termination package of the General Manager, Anantram Balram, who resigned on November 4, 2014, could not be negotiated by the Board.
Gossai, the report said, stated that the Board has to fulfil the mandate of Cabinet.
“He also voiced his disapproval in bringing back the General Manager for a week to “save face” and stated that this suggestion should be turned down,” the audit report stated.

Improper conduct
The auditors said that there was evidence which showed that Gossai forged the signature of the Board Chairman, Dr Gobind Ganga, which allowed the then General Manager to proceed on his remaining annual leave for 2014.
“Acting on information provided to us, we confirmed that the signature of the Board Chairman was lifted from another document. This is a gross act of forgery that should be pursued by the appropriate authorities,” it stated.
Meanwhile, this newspaper’s efforts to contact the former Natural Resources and Environment Minister for a comment or response to the allegations proved futile.