“We are not obligated to put our audits in public domain” – Norton

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton

In the face of heavy criticisms regarding the party’s finances, leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton, has confirmed that an audit has been conducted, but has said the party is not obligated to reveal this to the public.

Norton made these remarks during his party’s weekly press conference on Friday.

Since his assumption of the helm of the party, there have been mounting concerns, including internally, over the lack of financial accountability in the PNCR – the leading party in the coalition Opposition, and the PNCR leader had previously committed to having an audit done on the party’s finances; but on Friday he disclosed that the audit was done only on a section of the PNCR’s accounts, and he would not go into details.

“We have had an audit conducted on at least one part of our operations, but we are now obligated to put our audits in the public domain. Those who are pushing for an audit in the public domain clearly have an agenda that suits the PPP (the ruling People’s Progressive Party), but (that) doesn’t suit the interest of the People’s National Congress/Reform,” Norton posited.

Last year, in a leaked telephone conversation, former PNCR Treasurer Faaiz Mursalin had expressed concerns about the PNCR leadership on a host of issues, including financial impropriety, with him being instructed by Norton to sign several blank cheques, the lack of supporting financial documents for expenditures, and the lack of an audit of the party’s finances.

Shortly after these allegations had surfaced, former PNCR General Secretary and party stalwart Amna Ally had told a local newspaper that the party’s finances were in order, and annual audits were being done before Norton had assumed leadership in December 2021.

Recently, however, US-based PNCR member Egland Gomes, in a letter to the editor last week, stated that the party is in “disarray”, with supporters being disappointed and frustrated by Norton.

“We have seen the party decline in its ability to motivate and inspire others to join… Ever since the PNCR party leader acceded to office, Congress Place has become hostile to the wider membership,” Gomes contended.

“There has been no financial accountability for the party’s financial resources, the Central Executive team has failed to provide comprehensive oversight and accountability for the party, with no accountability or responsibility for the multiple violations of the party constitution. Some very egregious acts (have been committed), like the now notorious blank cheques scandal which saw the resignation of the party treasurer. No auditor was ever appointed, as mandated by the party constitution,” the letter detailed.

According to Gomes, the date for the PNCR Biennial Congress was “hastily announced” after witnessing a new wave of party supporters’ engagement in North America and Guyana. He said there was “no consideration for financial considerations to hold or convene the congress. Notwithstanding the deceptive public statements that there would be an independent audit of the membership CPU…I implore everyone to take careful consideration of the fact that the party membership CPU may be compromised. Without an independent audit and report, the Biennial Congress elections will not be credible and present a dark future for our democracy.”

Gomes added in the letter, “No financial accountability for more than two years! No treasurer, a quite possibly compromised membership CPU without an independent audit or oversight now. Please join the call to hold the PNCR party leader accountable and elect new credible leadership who will represent our constituents now.”

However, during Friday’s press conference, Norton declared that Gomes does not have “any authority” to speak on the party’s business, and opted not to respond to his letter. “Our financial operations are our business,” the PNCR leader maintained.

With regards to the upcoming PNCR Congress, set for June 28 to 30, Norton disclosed that the process for the hosting of this event has been activated. The first part, which has to do with persons applying and renewing their membership, has been completed, he said.

“The second part is that there is an Accreditation Committee which operates independently, (it) will then look at the data and then inform the party’s membership as to who are entitled to be delegates (and) who aren’t,” Norton explained.

In light of this, the PNCR leader said, it would be premature to ascertain what the turnout would be like for the party’s congress this month-end.