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Thursday 21 November 2019
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ASTT head: No one called us about audit

AGRICULTURE Society of TT (ASTT) head Dhano Sookoo said she was never contacted to participate in an audit, nor were requests made for the annual accounts lodged at the society’s office.

“At no time did anyone come to the office of the ASTT to audit any accounts,” she told Newsday yesterday. She wondered about the origins and validity of a report alleging improper conduct on the part of the ASTT. Saying she had never been contacted by phone nor e-mail about any audit, she said she had asked for a copy of the report last Tuesday when visiting the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Since 2014 to now, the ASTT had not got any funds. All the money allocated to the ASTT went to the ministry. They should be the ones to be audited.”

Sookoo questioned the validity of the audit document, saying it doesn’t even have a signature. She said she and fellow directors have read it.

“We will provide a response to the document. I have given agreed deadlines.” She expected to respond before month-end. Newsday asked her views of the report’s recommendations to repeal the ASTT Act, stop the monthly stipend to board members and do a forensic audit of the ASTT.

“Who signed the report? Who did the report? We don’t know who were the auditors,” Sookoo said. “The accounts we hold were never called into audit. I was never contacted.” However, she said, “I discovered fraudulent activities in the ministry.”

Denying claims that the ASTT had not provided its accounts for the past ten years, Sookoo said they had been done until 2013, when the ASTT controlled its accounts, but since then the ministry has controlled ASTT’s finances.

“It is the ministry which has to provide the accounts. Please give us the annual statement.”

She said she had conveyed this to the ministry’s permanent secretary and the auditor general.

“I remember that up to 2015 the minister had laid our accounts in Parliament.” On claims of $1.6 million in unpaid rent for the ASTT office, Sookoo said when the ASTT controlled its finances, the rent was always paid monthly, and any lapse since then had occurred under the ministry.

Asked about claims of wooden and concrete structures being built on 25 acres of land illegally occupied at Chatham, Sookoo said, “We have no idea what that is about. I am not even aware where Chatham is.” She concluded that public authorities must be mindful of their remarks about people and institutions. “I am disappointed in that mischievous report.” See story on page 11A.

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