The Office of the Integrity Commission has provided new information on the ongoing investigations into the financial state of affairs of the state-owned Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB).
Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph, Chairperson, Integrity Commission, confirmed that one of its members, Rupert Agostini has formally recused himself from the investigations into the MNIB, due to his position as auditor of the said organisation currently under scrutiny. Agostini currently heads local accounting firm Agostini WR & Co.
A recusal is to excuse oneself from a case because of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.
Agostini’s recusal was officially made known to the commission on 7 August, Trotman-Joseph said during their first press conference since the start of investigation on 2 August. “We can share because it is no secret that commissioner Agostini has recused himself entirely from this particular investigation, based on our conflict management system which has been developed with assistance from the OAS and UNODC, a system of recusal. We did, in fact, have a very formal recusal to the entire commission by Rupert Agostini. He has now to face in our commission what we call a Chinese wall within our own organisation by his agreement.”
The dire financial situation faced by the MNIB was brought to the public attention following a media report released in a local newspaper in July. Former Chief Executive Officer of MNIB, Ruel Edwards, was the subject of discussion after the former MNIB chairman, Simon Andrew was quoted as pointing blame at Edwards, for hiding the true financial state of affairs of the MNIB from the entire board of directors. Edwards had recently received a new position in the Ministry of Finance.
Trotman-Joseph told the media that Edwards should not be seen to be the only subject of the investigation as various other personnel including those who previously held a position at the MNIB are also part of the investigations. “We don’t want to say that any one person is the subject of the investigation, because not only is that unfair to a person who by our law in Grenada, is innocent until proven guilty, that perhaps it will become skewed if any responsible investigating outfit would pin everything on a person. Our act tells us that we are looking at a system and in that system, there are responsible office-holders past and present and everyone and all documents, reports and any relevant information is what is at play here.”
Operations Manager at the Office of the Integrity Commission, Elizabeth Henry-Greenidge informed that although initial discussions have been held with various people of interest to this investigation, no formal interview with these individuals has taken place. “What we can say at this stage is that we have not yet called in anyone to conduct an interview specifically with individuals. Like our press release indicated we did had some initial discussion at the premises of the new chairman and the acting CEO of the MNIB but that was mainly to deliver our letter informing them that we were conducting the investigation and requesting some information, but we have not yet interviewed any other person to date. But as the investigation proceeds I am sure we will get to the point where we would need to speak to people.”
The members of the Inquiry Panel of the Commission for the purposes of the MNIB investigation are:
(1) The Chairman, Commissioner Robert Robinson, who is the Deputy Chairman of the commission. He is a regional subject matter expert in industrial relations, and was recommended to serve on the Commission by then Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, of the National Democratic Congress Government;
(2) Commissioner Oforiwa Augustine who is an experienced lawyer and former magistrate. She was recommended to serve on the commission by the Grenada Council of Churches;
(3) Commissioner Bertie Hill, who is an experienced church leader, with a background in Management and Business, and was recommended to serve on the commission by the Association of Evangelical Churches.
In a press release issued by the commission, it was stated that subsequent to the completion of the commission’s investigations and conduct of the inquiry, a report will be handed over to Her Excellency the Governor General, the Director of Public Prosecution and the minister with responsibility for the MNIB who at present is Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.