A diversion and a red herring. That is how former United National Congress political leader Basdeo Panday described Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s announcement that she will launch a forensic probe into the party’s finances.
Last Thursday, the Prime Minister told the media that a forensic audit would be launched to investigate whether former UNC chairman now Independent Liberal Party leader (ILP) Jack Warner used party funds for his personal gain. This as she responded to allegations made by the former National Security minister and Chaguanas West MP that he financed the UNC’s 2010 election campaign.
But Panday is questioning why the PM wants to conduct a forensic audit. He also questioned what period she intended to probe, especially since she did not state a time period when she was interviewed. “I think the forensic audit is a diversion. What really is important is: Can they say where they got those millions of dollars from and from whom? And how much did they get? And did they spend all? I think that is what is important,” he said.
Panday described the forensic audit as “nonsense.” “I would have thought that the party had its system of accounts and that accounts would be there for people to look into, but the question of party financing, or finances going to parties—that is a lot of nonsense. “Monies are given to people personally, it does not go through the party accounts at all. Very little goes. I think only cheques and things like that go in,” Panday explained.
He said while he was in charge of the UNC there was a system in place and it worked very well. “People who donated money to the party and so on went through into the party accounts and expenditure was recorded, monies coming out of the accounts. That was there,” he said. He said he believed the same system was in place, but he did not believe an audit would reveal anything.
“I think what will (be) revealed is for the party to say where it got its funds from and I do not mean what is written in the party’s financial books, I mean all the money, millions of dollars being spent. I am sure that does not go through the party account books,” Panday said.
The audit, he said, was a red herring. “If you want to know about party financing you have to look outside the books, not in the books, because people give money to the leadership of the party and that is where no accounts are taken. People give money to the leadership, the leadership spends that money,” he said.
The real issue, he said, was that the party was spending an enormous amount of money and “if you look at the party’s financial books it would not show that money came into the party’s account and went out the party account. All that is really outside of the party’s financial accounting.” While Panday said there was need for campaign financing reform legislation, he believed it should not cover only monetary contributions.
“I think what you should ask is where does the party get these millions and millions of dollars that it spends on functions that it has been having and all the gifts that it has been giving out. All these toys, all these kinds of things. Party financing should include all of that,” Panday added. He mentioned the allegation that Warner, during his tenure as party chairman, had received some $30 million during the 2007 General Election which he did not give to the party. That matter remains the subject of a lawsuit.
Panday said the person who alleged that he paid the money took Warner to court. “I believe it is still in court,” Panday said.
Source: T&T Guardian