Board of Inquiry Chairman Says There Was No Compliance With Law On Fire Sale Of Assets – Love FM

The 46-page report of the Commission of Inquiry’s findings and recommendations was released yesterday after being tabled at a recent Cabinet meeting. One of the statements made by the commission was that the time had expired for a criminal proceeding to take place; but investigating who should be charged or held criminally responsible was never the commission’s goal. According to the commission’s chair, senior counsel Andrew Marshalleck, the objectives were clear in the terms of reference. Moreover, the president pointed out that there was no respect for the law and that there were many actors involved.

SC Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman of the Board of Inquiry: “The terms of reference were clearly set out in the Notice of Appointment which was published in The Gazette and essentially was to determine what the applicable rules and procedures were governing the sale of state assets, whether they were violated and if they were violated by whom and to recommend if any consequences should follow.

Journalist: So at no time was it really too necessary to prosecute anyone or accuse anyone of misconduct or corruption, corruption, whatever?

SC Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman of the Board of Inquiry: “No, the commission of inquiry is an investigation, it is an investigation and the result is to make recommendations which are then either taken into account by the competent authorities or they are not. The role of the Commission is not to prosecute anyone to convict anyone of anything.

Reporter: Okay, so in essence the Commission has achieved these goals in the 124 points of the report.

SC Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman of the Board of Inquiry: Well, I certainly think so. As for identifying the rules that were certainly applicable to the provisions of the Finance and Audit Reform Act, it was the provisions of the Financial Orders and Storage Orders that governed. Whether or not they were violated, they were completely violated, there was not even an attempt to track them, they were violated with respect to all sales and not some of them. As to who was responsible, everyone who was involved in it in one way or another was responsible. This is not a case where there were missteps in relation to one or two sales by one public official or the other, it is a case where the whole process, the informal process adopted by the department of Finance to process these sales broke the law. It was never compliant from start to finish, so everyone who had anything to do with it acted wrongly by continuing this informal practice and procedure.

Attorney Marshalleck further explained to Love News that several recommendations were made to the government in an effort to avoid any repeat of informal sales of government assets. These include legislative changes as well as policies governing the sale of government assets.

SC Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman of the Board of Inquiry: “In terms of recommendations, we made a number of them. We recommended that the provisions of the Finance and Audit Act be amended. We have introduced in the calendar a series of amendments which we believe will go a long way to ensuring that this never happens again. It aims to introduce a system where asset sales for less than $10,000 are handled at the discretion of the Ministry of Finance, assets between $10,000 and $1,000,000 go through one of three appeal processes offers; opening, selective tendering or limited tendering as the tender committee decides is appropriate and the tender committee shall include the financial secretary and the director general and the finance officer of the ministry directly involved in the purchase of the sale. The third aspect is that anything over $1,000,000 then has to go through an open bidding process. So that’s the general pattern of what we’ve established in the proposed amendments. In addition to this structure, we have also recommended that an asset management register be kept and this is a recommendation that is taken directly from the draft IMF regulations prepared years ago regarding this same thing. That the asset register maintains a current current value of all government assets and this helps determine whether or not the price you approve results in a gain or loss of revenue as a result of the transaction.

While the investigation was primarily based on the cheap and informal sale of government assets, other concerns arose that hinted at possible bribery and corruption. Interestingly, there is also the question of whether certain members of the National Assembly can be disqualified after benefiting from the sales.

SC Andrew Marshalleck, Chairman of the Board of Inquiry: “We also made a number of recommendations on peripheral issues that arose during the investigation. The main one that everyone remembers of course has to do with the Toyota Tacoma that Deputy Prime Minister Hugo Patt bought and the circumstances surrounding the payment for that Tacoma and it’s possible that it was related to the sale of a number of government lots at Kelvin Lee. We believe this warrants further investigation and possible prosecution if wrongdoing is discovered. As I said, it’s not our role to find wrongdoing, it’s to say that we’ve seen enough and that there’s definitely something here that needs to be looked into – and that the authorities should look into the matter further. The other peripheral question that came to us was very obvious. There have been quite a few sales of government vehicles to members of the National Assembly. There are provisions in our constitution that prohibit members of the National Assembly from continuing to sit where they have contracts with the government. The problem here is that these contracts relating to the Honorable Hugo Patt and the Honorable Michael Peyrefitte were entered into in the sense that they entered into contracts to buy assets, they paid for it, they collectively have assets and have gone their merry way, so the question is whether the disqualification persists in these circumstances and again, this is a matter which the Commission believes merits further consideration and action if necessary.

Senior Counsel Marshalleck says while there isn’t much that can be done about the 112 government vehicles sold or other assets, it’s important that going forward there isn’t repetition of such informal practices.

Aurora J. William