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Cabinet Says Sapna Must Go, – NICH Board Says NO

Cabinet Says Sapna Must Go, –  NICH Board Says NO
August 30
11:10 2018

On Tuesday, based on allegations of wrongdoing at the National Institute of Culture and History, Cabinet allegedly issued a directive that NICH President Sapna Budhrani, appointed to that post by Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, be placed on Administrative leave, effective immediately.

Cabinet also instructed that an external auditor be brought in to examine the financials of the statutory body with a view to proving or disproving the report of the internal auditor, Roberto Matus. It is that report, leaked to the media recently, which unleashed a firestorm of criticism and condemnation of the way NICH was being managed and operated.

But Budhrani has not been placed on Administrative Leave, and at a press conference this morning she confirmed that “I am currently the President of NICH. Whether I am on Administrative Leave or not, the letter has not arrived at my home or at my address.”As to whether there will be an external audit – that also seems doubtful. At the start of the press conference Associate Director of Finance Edwin Alvarado presented a five minute nutshell picture of NICH’s financial picture, and Budhrani explained that the decision to hire an external auditor, would be made based on that presentation which demonstrates that the company has been doing well.

In a memo dated Sunday, August 12th 2018 from Matus to Alvarado, the internal auditor tells Alvarado that he is sharing the information in the audit because ‘obviously reporting to Ms. Budhrani is a waste of time.’ Matus goes on to list issues including “stolen cash at FSTV, stolen donations at SISE HOC, stolen water pump at government house, the failure to take actions to fix vehicles which are just parked and deteriorating, unaccounted cash sales and expenses at San Pedro HOC, and also Ms. Budhrani using the NICH fuel card assigned to her not adhering to transparency and accountability on the fuel card since the card is open and can be used on non-NICH vehicles…”

Matus details multiple instances of what he calls irregularities in the report, including a NICH vehicle which was handed over to Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, allegedly now assigned to his driver. He ends his memo to Alvarado by stating, “the concern is the ineffectiveness of Ms. Budhrani’s improper financial management of NICH and lack of concern to address irregularities.”

In rebutting the allegations of the internal auditor, Member of the Finance Subcommittee Estevan Perera pointed out that Matus’ findings were not approved by the Board, there were inaccuracies contained within and the report was incomplete, only a draft. Board member Roosevelt Blades went further to state that following a Board meeting on Wednesday where Matus was grilled on his findings, the internal auditor concurred that some of what he reported was wrong, and claimed that he would amend. Since Matus was not present at the press conference, there was no way to verify that assertion.

As to the matter of Budhrani’s Administrative Leave, Blades insisted that the Board not obeying that directive was not exactly defiance – “I really wouldn’t want it to go out there that we are defying the Cabinet.

That is not the case. We are here to say to you that the information you are using…the information that was given to Cabinet was inaccurate.”

Reliable information to the Reporter suggests that Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber was tasked with informing Budhrani about the instructions from Cabinet. There was no clarity today on whether that was done, but Blades asserted that “the Cabinet gave instructions not to the Board. The Cabinet gave instruction within Cabinet…It is not being rogue. It is being fair.”

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