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Aug 27, 2018

Details of alleged Financial Irregularities Under Sapna Budhrani Unearthed at NICH

There are new damning details that point to financial irregularities and mismanagement at the National Institute of Culture and History. The new president, Sapna Budhrani, is at the centre of the allegations. An internal memo obtained by News Five speaks of a breakdown in financial regulations and missing monies collected from sites managed by NICH. Since her assumption to the post, the fuel budget has increased by a whopping sixty thousand dollars in four months. The most glaring, however, is the purchase of a brand new vehicle for the personal use of Budhrani at a time when the institution is said to be broke. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has reviewed the documents and files the following report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A pair of internal memos leaked to News Five indicates that there has been a number of administrative and financial issues since Sapna Budhrani assumed presidency of the National Institute of Culture and History in April of this year.  The written communication, the first of which is dated August eleventh, is a high priority email sent from in-house auditor Roberto Matus to financial officer Edwin Alvarado.  The document highlights several concerns, including missing funds from various locations managed by NICH.  In one instance, monies have been reported missing from revenue collected at Altun Ha, where it was later discovered that a total of one thousand, three hundred and fifteen dollars is unaccounted for, despite proof that David Griffith, an employee of NICH, had signed vouchers for the cash.  Up to the time that the message was sent to Alvarado, the monies had still not been collected.

Elsewhere in the letter, a similar issue of unsubstantiated expenses was brought to Alvarado’s attention, particularly the proceeds of an event held at the San Pedro House of Culture where four thousand dollars had been collected in April.  It wasn’t until July, after action had been taken by the internal auditor that a paltry sum of two hundred and sixty-five dollars was deposited into NICH’s bank account.

 

Perhaps the most glaring indiscretion is what appears to be the purchase of a vehicle by Budhrani, purportedly for her personal use.  The 2018 Honda CRV, according to the memo, costs sixty-seven thousand Belize dollars.  Aside from its price tag, fuel consumption is also flagged as an area of concern since the actual budget for petrol was exceeded by almost sixty thousand dollars during the period April to July.  From a fleet of seventeen vehicles assigned to NICH, Budhrani’s is the only one for which no license plate number or odometer reading is taken.  A close examination of fuel reports during the period in question shows the irregular use of the fuel card assigned to Budhrani on a monthly basis.  On one day Budhrani reportedly fuels a vehicle with nineteen gallons of premium gasoline and in less than twenty-four hours uses the same fuel card to purchase twenty-one gallons of regular gasoline for an unknown vehicle.  This practice, according to Matus, erodes accountability and transparency in a system that was designed to prevent abuses.

 

In a separate document titled Fuel Consumption Reports by Gallons, line item number three has to do with a Toyota Hilux pickup that was assigned to Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber during the fiscal year 2017-2018.  The vehicle was only to have been used for one year before being returned to NICH.  We are in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and still the vehicle is unavailable, despite the minister being assigned a black Chevy Suburban.  These details have emerged after DPM Faber went on record last week to defend Budhrani following comments made by Music Ambassador Shyne Barrow.

 

File: August 23rd, 2018, Patrick Faber, Minister of Culture

Patrick Faber

“I often do my best, always do my best, to ensure that we have accountability and good capable leadership and I continue to say that I have utmost confidence in Sapna Budhrani’s leadership there.  Now that leadership might not go well for some people who have an agenda and where it is that she is firm and trying to put in place good, strong policies that will uplift the institution .  In the past we have had those issues of mismanagement and not having the proper accountability.  And that is what she is tasked to do.  All I’ll say is that I will continue to have that kind of confidence in her leadership.”

 

Under her leadership, the statutory body has also come under fire from the Christian Workers Union for matters concerning members that are employed by NICH.

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

 

Sapna Budhrani

The president, Budhrani, was unavailable for comment today but we are told that an interview will be scheduled for Tuesday.

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1 Response for “Details of alleged Financial Irregularities Under Sapna Budhrani Unearthed at NICH”

  1. BJones says:

    Where is the Hilux, who’s driving it and why are the gas stations not tasked with providing license plates on all invoices presented for payment? Very simple questions

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