CDA in a bad financial state …”WHERE THE US $$ GONE?”

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So the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) opened a US bank account six years ago and no one knows where the money has gone.

Amazing!

The account was opened when the PP Government was in office. Now, it is being said that this mystery US account was opened during the period 2011-2012, with a US$1.4 million deposit, although there was no Board or Ministerial approval.

This account was red-flagged by the Auditor General because no documents relating to the account could be found.

The issue was raised by Minister of Tourism, Randall Mitchell, on Wednesday when officials of the CDA appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

Mitchell noted a concern from the Auditor General that documents relative to a US account opened sometime in 2011-2012, could not be found.

Mitchell asked CDA’s acting General Manager, Deowatee Dilraj-Batoosingh, to provide the reason for opening the account, where did the CDA get the money paid into the account and the current state of the account.

Dilraj-Batoosingh, who indicated she was not the general manager during the period when the account was opened in 2012, told the Committee “the account is something we are currently reviewing in terms of how it was set up, why it was set up,” and the source of the funds.

She admitted they had been unable to find a board approval for the opening of the account, and “our records do not disclose a Ministerial approval for the opening of the account.”

What they had located, she said, “are documents that the funds paid into the account which came from one of the tenants at the start of the lease.”

It would appear, she said, that “it was part of a lease arrangement and the tenant paid in US dollars and it went into that account.”

But Dilraj-Batoosingh said the CDA was “continuing our checks in terms of all transactions,” on the account which she confirmed started in 2012. As of Wednesday, she said, there was US$740 in the account.

In response to further probing from Mitchell, she said, the account was opened with US$1.4 million but could not provide any details on where the funds went. Based on the records which were found, she said, “it seems the funds were wired to various areas.”

She said, “we are trying to trace back with the necessary supporting documents where the funds would have gone after 2012.”

Asked by Mitchell if there were any other instances of “money you can’t reconcile,” Dilraj-Batoosingh said, “I don’t believe so,” but she said there may have been instances of “improper recording, but not so much unaccounted for just where it was placed on the books.”

Dilraj-Batoosingh told the Committee that the financial situation at the CDA was not good. She said the organisation is in debt in excess of $100 million, which they were trying to manage, while at the same time dealing with current operational cost.

She said the debt had “stifled the way we can operate and move ahead in terms of development,” but she said the CDA had not let that hamper efforts to generate further development and revenue.

Dilraj-Batoosingh explained that most of the debt was arrears owed, some to employees and pension arrears. The debt also constituted monies outstanding to service providers dating back to the period 2013-2015.

Inline image

Deowatee Dilraj-Batoosingh, right.

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