Loopholes identified now closed – GO-Invest Chair

by: Guyana Times Newspaper.

Several loopholes which were identified in the controversial Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) forensic audit report have been addressed and eradicated over the past two years. This is according to Patricia Bacchus, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of GO-Invest.

Go- Invest head office
Go- Invest head office

Also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Caribbean Containers Inc., Bacchus has said that a board level Finance Subcommittee has been implemented among the corrective measures taken at GO-Invest. Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) have also been implemented between GO-Invest and other government agencies to promote the ‘One Stop Shop’ ideal and self-compliance measures for investors.

“I want to give you the assurance that all the non-compliant areas have been remedied. The board now has a Finance and Audit Subcommittee, which deals with financial reconciliation and ensures that there is no impropriety; and (there is also) a PR (Public Relations),” she said.

Go- Invest Chairperson, Patricia Bacchus
Go- Invest Chairperson, Patricia Bacchus

One stop shop

Addressing the annual general meeting of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Bacchus said that through the signing of MoU with other sister government agencies, there has been an increase in service quality.

The Attorney-at-Law noted that while initially intended to be a ‘One Stop Shop’ for investors in Guyana, GO-Invest did not have in-house the sister agencies which play a dominant role in investment, and so did not fulfill that role. “It resides in agencies such as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Ministry of Finance, Lands and Surveys Commission. But more efforts are now being taken to ensure the agency performs as far as feasible as a One Stop Shop.”

Bacchus said that senior representatives of the GRA and of the Lands and Surveys Department, as well as a private sector representatives and those from the Ministries of the Presidency, Natural Resources, Public Infrastructure, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have sat on the GO-Invest board. “This is designed to ensure a greater level of inter-agency cooperation; so, should the investor encounter any difficulties, GO-Invest would work at the level of its board of directors to ensure a timely and smooth resolution of whatever issue an investor may be faced with.

“We’ve signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) with GRA and Lands and Surveys Commission, to outline the mode of operation between the agencies, to ensure that it is constant and efficient.”

Expressions of Interest

According to Bacchus, the way investors will approach and apply to the agency has also been revamped. She said that the process has now been standardized, and made available to potential investors on the website, all to facilitate greater and more automatic service.

“Coming from the private sector, I had experiences with GO-Invest before I played any role in (its) governance. So I can attest to things such as correspondence being misplaced; (correspondences) not being responded to in three to four years; inadequate systems of control and governance; (lack) of standardization of tools and forms. Since 2015, we have streamlined the investment facilitation process. The tool that you require to activate the investment promotion mechanism is posted to the agency’s website. It’s called the Expression of Interest form. It’s about five pages long,” she explained.

She noted the form sets out all the categories of disclosure of information that an investor would be expected to provide, and checks and balances have been put in place to log and account for all submissions made by investors.

“So you will hear from the agency. You will not have to wonder whether your correspondences have been received,” Bacchus assured.

She also pointed to the self-compliance form would investors will now have to complete and submit to Go-Invest. This, Bacchus indicated, is to ensure that Go-Invest can monitor the progress of investors after they would have received concessions, though not necessarily for the purpose of revoking concessions.

The Go-Invest audit is one of several commissioned by Government into State entities in 2015. The audit report, which was released on February 3 last, had mentioned a number of findings. According to the report, Go-Invest does not have an Internal Audit Department or Audit Charter. A weak governance structure was also cited.

Former Go-Invest CEO Keith Burrowes had stated that the agency was not getting enough funding to accomplish some of the initiatives needed for improved internal governance.

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