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Wednesday 16 January 2019
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Parliament: Fraud, manipulation at TGU

SEAN DOUGLAS

THE power-plant supplying half TT’s electricity and which was funded by a US$600 million bond could be tainted by insider fraud and manipulation, said members of Parliament’s Public Accounts Enterprises Committee (PAEC) on Wednesday, probing Trinidad Generation Unlimited’s (TGU’s) accounts for 2008 to 2013.

PAEC members were upset that TGU CEO Namdeo Boodram had not promptly told the board of an adverse internal audit report, but he retorted that he had told the former board and all concerns had been addressed.

But PAEC chairman Jennifer Baptiste-Primus chided Boodram.

“Be careful about clothing yourself in an authority you do not have.

You are manipulating what information is to go to the board and so deprive the board of making critical decisions.”

Independent Senator David Small said, “I’m deeply troubled by what I’ve heard.”

He said the auditor found dozens of cases where invoices were dated before the purchase order was issued.

“That’s fraud.

That’s collusion. There’s no way a provider can provide an invoice for services before the purchase order was issued unless there’s a nice group of people sitting there working inside the system trying to beat the controls of the company.”

“This is not directed at you Madam Chair.

“The company had no internal audit control and when they bring in an external auditor this is what they find: that people have systematically abused the processes of the company for their own gain.”

“Small said the report contains “some scary stuff.”

Boodram said the report was given to the previous board and actions were taken, along a timeline he promised to present.”

By early 2016 and 2017, we had put these issues at rest,” Boodram said. He said the new board was not given the audit report as it was dealing with new issues. Small retorted that officials had shown a sustained pattern of behaviour to twist things and be mischievous.

Mark requested a fresh audit of TGU for July 2015 to December 2017, saying, “I’m totally dissatisfied with the lackadaisical approach taken by this company to employ an internal auditor.”

Small said TGU’s administrative costs exceeding its operating costs was unusual for industry.

Former chairman David D’Andrade said the gas-supply was not counted as an operating expense.

Small noted 120 cheques lacking signature or approval. “This suggests to me this was well prepared and orchestrated.”

Hinds asked the board to provide salary details of those in the TGU’s “top echelons.”

He also queried meals and entertainment costs of US$52,000 in 2013, salary costs of US$4 million in 2014 and travelling costs of US$532,000 in 2014.

Mark said the TGU was “rudderless”, lacked penalties for wrongdoing and lacked a fraud policy despite “all kinds of activity taking place.”

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