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Aug 28, 2018

Sapna Budhrani Suspended; More on the Damning NICH Audits

Sapna Budhrani

The news tonight is that after days of inaction, the president of NICH, Sapna Budhrani has been suspended from her post. On Monday night, News Five revealed the contents of a leaked memo in which an internal audit listed a litany of irregularities and mismanagement at the statutory body. One of the major concerns has been the fleet of vehicles, as many as seventeen, including a brand new Honda CRV.  Tonight, we trace the whereabouts of some of these vehicles for which the audit also reveals an over expenditure of more than sixty thousand dollars for fuel in a four month period.  The audit has also unraveled stolen musical equipment donated to NICH as well as missing monies. Here is what News Five’s Isani Cayetano found.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The gradual break down in financial accountability and transparency at the National Institute of Culture and History, under the leadership of Sapna Budhrani, is documented in a series of messages that have since been leaked to News Five.  Memos shared between internal auditor Roberto Matus and financial officer Edwin Alvarado focus on irregularities in finances, vehicle usage and fuel consumption.  In respect of the latter, News Five understands that petrol for a white Toyota Hilux, a 2017 model with license plate number E-00215, is being paid for by NICH, despite the pickup truck not being part of its fleet.  According to the documents, the statutory body received the first of two Toyota Hilux from Belize Diesel and Equipment Limited.  One of the vehicles was assigned to Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber until the fiscal year 2017-2018 commenced.  That vehicle, based on an audit conducted by Matus, is being used by Tyrone Tillett who is not employed by NICH.  In fact, Tillett has been identified as the minister’s driver.  Important to note is that DPM Faber has since been assigned a Chevy Suburban.

In another section of the memo, the issue of missing monies once again arises, particularly where it concerns the proceeds of a concert in April by the National Youth Orchestra.  There are also stolen musical instruments that were gifted to the National Youth Orchestra by the Korean Embassy.  Those items, a bass pan, as well as a pair of cymbals, were stolen from the Bliss, but were never reported as donations to the finance department.  A damaged invoice book, as well as a stolen receipt book and missing petty cash are also flagged.  Likewise, a stolen water pump which was taken from the Government House of Culture, reportedly while a member of NICH’s security staff was on duty at that location on the day of the incident.  According to the document from Matus, audit reports reflecting these concerns were forwarded to Budhrani, but as of August eleventh, no action has been taken on the part of the NICH president.

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