The Anande Trotman-Joseph led probe into the operations of the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) under its former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ruel Edwards has called for a forensic examination of its books.
A copy of the report has been released by the Integrity Commission (IC) which decided to launch an investigation into the Marketing Board following a series of articles carried by THE NEW TODAY newspaper on questionable dealings at the statutory body.
One of the issues raised was the sale of a top of the line vehicle owned by MNIB to the CEO, as well as some of his expensive first class trips abroad along with his Secretary.
The report from the Integrity Commission called for the conduct of “a full independent forensic examination, under the direction of the Department of Audit, into MNIB’s financial operations for the period of the Commission’s inquiry/investigation or a focused investigation for this period on the areas specifically identified in this Report.”
During the probe, the former CEO who is believed to be now working outside of Grenada did not make an appearance before the Commissioners to be questioned.
Following are some of the findings of the IC on MNIB:
Summary of Findings
I. The inquiry/investigation found that although the Board Minutes and Reports of the MNIB seem to suggest there was active discussion and planning around improvements aimed at benefiting the producers/farmers, the farmers nevertheless generally felt disenfranchised and dissatisfied.
II. The inquiry/investigation found that although the MNIB occasionally provided farmers with seeds, fertilisers and insecticides, this was not on a consistent basis.
III.The Board Minutes similarly revealed discussions on the implementation of a Farmers’ Desk with a Hotline, but the inquiry/investigation found no evidence of implementation of same.
IV. The inquiry/investigation found stark variance between the information contained in the Board Minutes and the sentiments expressed by the farmers. The Board Minutes, indicated that there were discussions around paying greater attention to the grading of products in order to reduce spoilage, however, the inquiry/investigation did not find evidence of the implementation of any strategy to address spoilage in general, save and except a Standard of Soursop document dated sometime in 2015.
V.The inquiry/investigation did not find any evidence indicating that the MNIB acted as commission agent for the disposal of produce, paid dividends to farmers or traded and dealt with food for livestock.
VI.The inquiry/investigation determined that the circumstances surrounding the issues of non-payments/delayed payments were due to cash flow issues exacerbated by the garnishing of MNIB’s account, a result of its court matter with CSME Commodity Traders Ltd.
VII.The inquiry/investigation found that Annual Business Plans submission dates by the MNIB, during the period under inquiry/investigation, always fell outside of the four-month window stipulated by the Ac
VIII. The inquiry/investigation found that MNIB did not keep its books of accounts in a way that is sufficient to record and explain the transactions, and to enable its financial position to be determined with reasonable accuracy at any time.
IX. The lack of cooperation from the Management of the MNIB with the auditors resulted in significant delays in the preparation and submission of the annual Audited Reports to the Ministry of Finance for onward transmission to Parliament.
X. While it was the responsibility of the Board and Management of the MNIB to make these entities viable through the products and services provided, more follow-up by the line Ministry was required to ensure the projects were being implemented as planned.
XI. Following review of some of the MNIB’s Financial and Operational Reports, as well as Reports from MNIB’s independent auditor, the inquiry/investigation determined that MNIB was poorly managed.
XII. The inquiry/investigation determined that MNIB was not compliant with some of the required policies, protocols, and procedures. Some of them did not exist or were not implemented during the period under the inquiry/investigation.
XIII. The inquiry/investigation was also able to determine that, there is no Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) or Code of Conduct at the Ministry of Finance for persons on contract vis a vis requirements to declare any such activities outside the service.
Based on the foregoing, the following recommendations are made among others for implementation; in the main Report each issue has identified specific recommendations.
I. Conduct a full independent forensic examination, under the direction of the Department of Audit, into MNIB’s financial operations for the period of the Commission’s inquiry/investigation or a focused investigation for this period on the areas specifically identified in this Report.
II. There should be mandatory training at the reconstitution of the Boards of Directors for new and continuing members on their Fiduciary Duties, roles and responsibilities in accordance with all applicable Acts and the training must be conducted by a professional with proficiency in the operations of statutory bodies.
III. Board Directors along with the Management of Statutory Bodies should create and implement a Risk Treatment Plan that would mitigate against risks, conflict of interests and corrupt practices. This plan will be periodically revised as part of the Integrity Commission’s Risk Management implementation.
IV. Due consideration be given to a comprehensive review of the MNIB Act and specifically the composition of the Board. The Board membership should be representative of;
a. At least two (2) farmers;
b. At least two (2) Fisheries Cooperatives Representatives;
c.A Chartered Accountant;
d. An attorney-at–law with at least five years standing;
f. Bureau of Standards Representative;
g. Business community with an emphasis on marketing;
h. Ministry of Trade and/or;
i. The line Ministry.
V. It is strongly recommended that the MNIB has an independent Secretary designated to the Board of Directors. This must also be applied to all Statutory Bodies.
VI. Administrative and operational policies, procedures and practices must be developed, disseminated to staff and implemented to ensure the proper management of the MNIB.
VII.The MNIB should provide farmers with more information on market fluctuations and also provide advice and consultations on what and when they should plant.
VIII.It is strongly recommended that the Ministry of Trade and by extension all Ministries, implement Standard Operating Procedures that include a well-defined Code of Ethics, Conflict of Interest and Code of Conduct, modelled by the IPLA and advise all appointees;
IV. It is strongly recommended that MNIB’s Board of Directors ensure that they are in full compliance with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act No. 39 of 2014; specifically Section 55 (4) a) b) c) and (5), (6).
X.The Commission recommends that the RGPF should continue to investigate the fires.