St Kitts-Nevis sugar fund CEO fired

BASSETERRE, St Kitts — The chief executive officer at the St Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF), Terrance Crossman, has been terminated. Crossman was handed a termination letter on Friday. The reasons for his dismissal are unclear.

The dismissal comes days after Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris indicated during his most recent press conference that ongoing investigations into the foundation were just about completed and the SIDF will soon be brought under Parliamentary scrutiny, as promised by his Team Unity administration prior to the 2015 elections.

“The legislative framework being pursued by two QCs in our country is substantially complete, last I inquired they should be submitting it to us by next week. However they advised that it would be helpful to get the final report to see how that can be tweaked in light of any issues that may be pertinent to the new governance agenda. The commitments which we made in the manifesto to greater transparency would certainly be embedded in the next legislative creation that we would bring in relation to the SIDF and it may be called another name so that we distance ourselves from that grievance and abomination it turned out to be,” Harris said.

The SIDF and its operations have come under heavy criticisms over the years over its lack of transparency and accountability. It was sharply criticized also for the fact that it operates as a private entity with funds generated from the sale of citizenships — a national commodity and privilege

“We will not recoil from any of the commitments which we made with respect to the SIDF, that there must be public accountability, there must be regular reports being submitted to the parliament so that the people of the country can know more and become a part of what is happening with their patrimony,” Harris added.

He indicated at the most recent press conference that the SIDF investigation was virtually complete except for necessary consideration and review by cabinet.

“What has happened is once you get in to the tangled web there’s a lot more work that needed to be done for them to bring the kind of assurances. We expect very shortly and before the budget presentation, to be able to make a statement to the country in relation to that. It is not unheard of either in relation to a regular audit that you can have delays more so for the investigative nature of this one because part of it is to go through a maze of documents, find them, verify them etc and there has been some element of a lack of cooperation from some of the entities involved and that of course led to some delays in the finalization of the report but the report is substantially complete,” Harris said.

“The absence of control at the SIDF was so bad that it was difficult for them to be able to move with the speed that had been anticipated and you add that to the fact that the SIDF had not produced audited financial statements for a significant period of time, the last one perhaps would have been 2013 that they had provided audited reports. You add that to the fact that you had entities such as the Kittitian Hill Belmont Resort whose report would impact upon the financial statement statements of SIDF and their accounting was not up to date in terms of auditing, so it is those complexities that has led to a prolonged engagement with respect to Ernst & Young presenting its report to us,” Harris concluded.

The controversial management of the SIDF by the former Denzil Douglas-led administration came in for some unpleasant findings following a preliminary review in May by multinational firm Ernst & Young.

Speaking at a monthly press conference held in May 2015, Harris said that the review of the SIDF operations over the period 2010-2014, which he announced on March 15, had revealed some troubling initial findings.

“The review has revealed that the SIDF was operated in a manner unbecoming of a multi-million dollar entity. The board of councilors and senior management operated with scant regard for proper procedures and best practices expected of those with fiduciary responsibilities,” Harris said.

The SIDF was touted by former PM and now leader of the opposition, Dr Denzil Douglas, as a private foundation outside the ambit of government oversight. Under the Douglas administration the fund amassed hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of St Kitts-Nevis citizenship for up to US$400,000 cash per citizenship.

The SIDF was founded in September 2006 by the National Bank Trust Company, which is a subsidiary of the St Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank, a public limited company with the majority shareholder being the federal government of St Kitts and Nevis.

 

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