Judge, Auditor to Probe Unreported 2023 Finances

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By Prior Beharry

A RETIRED High Court judge and a former audit director in the Auditor General Department will probe how revenue was understated for the financial year 2023.

This was announced by Minister of Finance Colm Imbert at a virtual media conference and a press release on Tuesday.


The Investigation Team will be chaired by retired High Court Judge Justice David Harris and will include David C. Benjamin, a former Audit Director at the Auditor General’s Department and specialists in Information Technology.

They are to report in two months.

The terms of reference of the investigation include:

a. What circumstances led to the Understatement of Revenue in the public accounts for the financial year 2023 and what should be done to avoid a recurrence of same;

b. The efficacy of the new Electronic Cheque Clearing System introduced by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in February 2023;

c. The efforts made by the officials at the Ministry of Finance and its various Divisions to correct the Understatement of Revenue, and to advise the Auditor General of the Understatement and provide her with an explanation, clarification and further information on same;

d. What was the response of the Auditor General to the efforts of the public described at (c) above and what action was taken by the Auditor General in relation to the Understatement of Revenue in the audit of the Public Accounts for financial year 2023;

e. What are the facts in relation to the allegations and statements made by the Auditor General in her Report on the Public Accounts of Trinidadand Tobago for the Financial Year 2023, including the Addendum and Appendices, with specific reference to the Understatement of Revenue in the public accounts for the financial year 2023;

f. Any other related matters; and

g. Findings and Recommendations going forward.

The matter has arose after more that $2.6 billion was understated in the 2023 Finances submitted to the Auditor General Department by the Ministry of Finance.

On selecting the two-member team, Imbert said they was qualified people.

He said he noticed a of lot of commentary on the Auditor General’s Report which has not yet been laid in Parliament and was not a public document.

Imbert said, “Somehow, the Opposition have got their hands on a copy of it. I am not sure how they did that, but they have a copy of it and they have been publishing extracts and misleading the population, ma­king scandalous allegations, false allegations and ridiculous statements.”


He said that Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was giving “misleading” information that $386 million had gone missing from the Ministry of Finance.

Imbert said, “They have been misleading the population by making scandalous allegations, false allegations, and ridiculous statements. For example, at the most recent Monday night forum, I’m told the leader of the opposition made an absurd claim that 386 million dollars have gone missing from the Ministry of Finance. That is absolute rubbish.

“What I am seeing in terms of what was posted on the screen at that Monday night forum is that it is being alleged that documents were not provided to support payments totalling $386 million in 2023, such as expenses in connection with international financial institutions, fiscal incentives for farmers, and so on. 

“The fact of the matter is that when one does not understand the language in these audit statements, you could mislead yourself and then everybody else. When a statement is made that documents are not provided, it does not mean evidence of the payment was not provided.”


Asked about his relationship with Auditor General  Jaiwantie Ramdass  given the impasse, Imbert said,“ I certainly would not want to personalise this at all.”

Imbert said, “It is very unusual what we have found ourselves in, where there appears to be a reluctance to accept additional information. It is a very unusual situation, and it is not normal from my research.”

After, the Finance Ministry asked Ramdass to amend the Financial statement after it was file within the legal time frame, she sought advice from the Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, who said he was conflicted in the matter since he was already advising the Finance Ministry.

He told her to seek legal advice and it at the state’s expense. Ramdass has engaged Freedom Chambers, headed by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC.

A pre-action protocol letter dated April 29 and sent by attorney Aasha Ramlal said, “Our client was concerned because she had been provided with two sets of public accounts from the Ministry of Finance, one of which was backdated and contained a significantly higher statement of revenue figure. 

“The original public accounts were dated and submitted on January 31, 2024 and showed a statement of revenue figure of $61,890,373,020.22. 

“The amended public accounts were submitted on April 15h 2024 (almost two months after the statutory deadline of January 31, 2024) and showed a different, higher statement of revenue figure of $64,488,530,781.94. 

“The latter statement was deliberately backdated so that it would appear as if it was prepared and submitted on January 31st 2024. More importantly, it did not in fact show the original revenue figure and the fact it was amended.”


On April 26, Finance Minister Colm Imbert succeeded in having a motion passed in the House of Representatives to extend the time to submit the public accounts to the Auditor General and the time for the Auditor General to submit a report on the accounts to Parliament under Sections 24 (1) and 25 (1) of the Act respectively. The motion was passed by a vote of 19 to 14.

And three days later,  the Senate passed the same motion by a 23 to 6 vote.

Imbert said the the motion was brought to Parliament because Finance Ministry’s officials had detected a variance and understatement of approximately $2.6 billion in the 2023 public financial statements.

He said, therefore, it was necessary for Auditor General to be given additional time to receive the amended financial statements and prepare a report for submission to Parliament.


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