Imbert: Probe into understatement of revenue will proceed as planned

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Imbert: Probe into understatement of revenue will proceed as planned

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has stated that there will be no cancellation of the investigation into the circumstan­ces surrounding the understatement of revenue in the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year 2023 and rela­ted matters.

The probe is being headed by retired judge David Harris.

Imbert made the statement via his attorneys—Jo-Anne Douglas of MG Daly and Partners in response to a pre-action letter dated May 12 from Freedom Law Chambers, on behalf of Auditor General Jaiwantie Ram­dass.

The pre-action letter had called on the minister to stop the investigation, claiming it was unconstitutional and an attempt by Imbert to distance himself from the fiasco he created.

The letter also threatened that a claim for judicial review would be filed, challen­ging the appointment of the investigation team, arguing that the powers to address issues with the Auditor General fall under the purview of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

However, in their letter yesterday, Imbert’s attorneys stated that the investigation was not illegal and was not in contravention of Sections 121 and 136 of the Constitution.

According to the letter, Section 136 of the Constitution provides for the removal of an Auditor General by the President on the advice of a tribunal.

It added that it was clear from the investigation team’s terms of reference that it is not being tasked with investi­gating the question as to whether Ramdass should be removed from the office of Auditor General.

“Further, to the extent that the Terms of Reference may require the Investigation Team to investigate the conduct of your client, any findings made by the team in that regard will not be binding on the President of the Republic or any tribunal set up under section 136,” the letter stated.

“To the extent that the Investigation Team makes any findings with respect to the conduct of the Auditor General the most that might be done is that such findings might be passed on by the Prime Minister to the President for consideration in deciding whether the question of removing the Auditor General should be investigated,” it stated.

The letter also stressed the importance for accuracy with respect to the country’s public accounts and listed the following other reasons:

• a material error in the public accounts submitted to the Auditor General, resul­ting in an understatement of revenue in the amount of $2,599,278,188.72

• the Auditor General’s initial refusal to consider that error after it was discovered and her reasons for refusing to do so

• the serious allegation that public accounts submitted to the Auditor General were backdated and other grave allegations made by the Auditor General in relation to those accounts

• that the Auditor General issued an audit report in respect of the public accounts submitted to her which contained a disclaimer.

The letter further stated that the Cabinet would clearly be failing in its duty to the country if it did not ensure that these matters were inves­tigated by independent persons.

Imbert’s attorneys also noted that the pre-action letter suggested that Imbert is the main protagonist in a conflict with Ramdass, and he had launched an unfounded and malicious attack on her, that he created this fiasco and had caused an investigation team to be appointed to distance himself from the very fiasco.

“Cabinet denies this allegation and repeats that it is the Cabinet which has approved the appointment of the Investigation Team,” sta­ted the letter.