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Aug 30, 2018

NICH Board Comes Out in Defense of President Sapna Budhrani

The controversy at the National Institute of Culture and History continues to unravel with President Sapna Budhrani is in the hot seat.  Since details began to emerge on the state of affairs at the statutory body, she had remained mum. This morning, however, backed up by the Board of Directors, Budhrani finally broke her silence, following a lengthy meeting on Tuesday.  The session lasted about one hour and half. And like the Minister of Culture, Patrick Faber, board members came out in support of Budhrani, taking turns to smooth over allegations of financial irregularities and mismanagement at NICH.  This, even before an external audit ordered by cabinet is completed.  At today’s press conference, the officer, who undertook the internal audit and authored the telling memo, Roberto Matus, was thrown under the bus as imminently unqualified. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a full report of today’s press conference.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The content of a sheaf of documents leaked to the media earlier this week, including a pair of letters from in-house auditor Roberto Matus to Associate Director of Finance Edwin Alvarado, is being called to question.  Earlier today, the board of directors of the National Institute of Culture and History convened a press conference to discuss its present state of affairs.


Sapna Budhrani

Sapna Budhrani, President, NICH

“I know I have the full confidence of the board, the directors of the institution, staff and stakeholders.  Unfortunately, the media and the Cabinet may have been misled by what was leaked and that’s the position.”


The primary focus was a preliminary review conducted by Matus, for the period April to July of this year, in which he cited a number of irregularities.  In light of these findings, the board painstakingly went over the financials of the statutory body, before concluding that there are stark errors in Matus’ assessment.


Roosevelt Blades

Roosevelt Blades, Member, NICH Board of Directors

“What we did was, we followed due process and we asked the internal auditor to present his report to the board and to the management team which should have taken place before that report is signed off on.  It took us about what, I think it was nine hours that we went through the entire report, line by line, and in that meeting, and we have minutes of that meeting, he acknowledged where he erred and so he indicated to us that he would have made those necessary changes.”


Those inaccuracies now form the basis of the board’s position, that contrary to what has been published in the media, NICH is performing well financially.


Edwin Alvarado

Edwin Alvarado, Associate Director of Finance

“We start off with the total income.  If you notice the orange one represents April to July 2017 and the blue, April to July 2018.  So that’s the same total income that I had mentioned in the profit and loss.  Two million, six hundred and seven versus two million, nine hundred and sixty-one.  The operational, you notice the one of 2017 is higher, versus this year’s 2018, at two million, one forty-five for 2017 and two million, twenty-four for 2018.  Programmatic, seven-fifty for 2017, versus six, forty-five for this year, 2018.  So that would be for the graphical representations of the data for the profit and loss for those four months in question, comparing 2017 versus 2018.”


Allegations of mismanagement brought against President Sapna Budhrani, prompted the matter to be discussed in Cabinet on Tuesday.  We understand that coming out of that meeting, Budhrani was to have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an external audit.  In her own words, she remains at the helm of NICH and it is business as usual.


Sapna Budhrani

“I am currently the president of NICH.  Whether I am on administrative leave or not, the letter has not arrived at my home or my address.  Thank you.”


Isani Cayetano

“I gather that this was voted upon in Cabinet on Tuesday.  I believe it was a near-unanimous decision that an external audit ought to be conducted into the affairs of NICH.  Is this then perhaps a defiance of that Cabinet position?”


Sapna Budhrani

“Thank you for your question.  I wouldnt be able to speak on behalf of Cabinet, however, based on the presentation made today, it would be clear that our financial status is well.  So this decision was one by the board, by the directors to present today.  Whether an external audit would happen or not, that would be dependent on todays presentation.  I was not given an opportunity to speak in Cabinet and all the information that was out there may have misled some.”


The fact that the board has taken it upon its own to set the record straight via this medium, flies in the face of the directive given on Tuesday.  Today’s presentation may be seen as an act of open disobedience, since it is not the external audit that has been ordered.


Roosevelt Blades

“I really wouldnt want it to go out there that we are defying the Cabinet, this is not the case.  We are here to say to you that the information that youre using, the information that was presented to the Cabinet for them to make their decision was inaccurate.  We want to set the record straight, thats all we are doing.  Were not defying anybody.  We cannot defy the Cabinet, they are the maximum authority of this country.”


Perhaps it would have been more prudent for NICH to make its case before Cabinet first, as opposed to the media.


Roosevelt Blades

“Don’t you think that it is proper that you be given the information because you have been disseminating information out there.  You have been disseminating one side of the information out there.  Don’t you think that it is only proper that you be given that information also?  We don’t control Cabinet you know, we don’t run the affairs of Cabinet.  We run the affairs of this institution and so what Cabinet decides or what Cabinet does is far above our level.  We have no control over that.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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