National Quarries (NQ) chief executive Sandra Fernandez yesterday reported an alleged fraud cover up at the cash-strapped State enterprise to the Fraud Squad.
Fernandez has reported that senior officials have been covering up their tracks by forging letters which she took to the Fraud Squad yesterday.
The matter has already been reported by Fernandez to the Integrity Commission.
The Express understands that within the past week letters have been forged at NQ and submitted to the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Finance as certain officials in the State company attempt to cover up the acquisition of two pieces of equipment for $2 million.
The Express understands that as chief executive, Fernandez was asked to sign off on backdated letters, which sought to spin how the company acquired and utilised a second, unaccounted for piece of equipment.
In an exclusive story published in this week’s Sunday Express, it was revealed that NQ paid $2 million for an excavator and a bulldozer (called a dozer), even though it got only one. The excavator went to NQ but the bulldozer went to a worksite at Gopaul & Company.
The dozer had remained undeclared to NQ until the Express raised questions about the acquisition and location as part of an investigative series into allegations of financial impropriety and fraudulent deals at the State company.
The dozer, which had been temporarily housed at Gopaul’s St Augustine base after experiencing transmission problems at the Gopaul’s worksite in the Beetham Landfill, was subsequently moved to Scott’s Quarry three weeks ago.
Scott’s Quarry is owned by NQ.
NQ chairman Mitra Ramkhelawan had said he would address the allegations in the Sunday Express article but, to date, has not.
The board, which includes Satee Chillar, Shivanand Dubay, Gregory Nurse, Neil Joe Sirpu, Nassa Hosein, Perry Polar, Alban Scott and Varsha Sieurajsingh, was unaware of the dozer acquisition and unknowingly approved the forged letters submitted to the ministries.
The Express understands that a senior NQ official in collusion with another manager at the company produced a hand-written note, which was back-dated, for Fernandez to sign which would show that the dozer was in fact at NQ and under the stewardship of a contractor.
The note was dated June 18, 2013 and gave the contractor the rights to the dozer and NQ would deduct the cost of the equipment when invoices were submitted.
The note dated June 18, the Express understands, was drafted by the manager and presented to Fernandez to sign on October 2 but she refused to sign it.
Fernandez made a note at the back of the hand-written letter, which stated: “Received on or about 2nd of October 2013 from.... (name called). (Name called) gave her to pass to me to prepare letter...I never signed the letter,” with her signature.
The Express understands that a letter was typed and Fernandez’s signature photo-copied onto it and submitted to board members to indicate that approval was given by her to the contractor.
Contacted yesterday for comment, NQ’s operations manager Delicia Maharaj said NQ has a public relations individual and deferred all questions.
Ramkhelawan did not answer his cellphone.
The June 18 letter, the Express understands, prompted Fernandez to report the matter to the Fraud Squad yesterday.
The Express also obtained other documents handed over to the Fraud Squad, which were allegedly forged within the last week to support the narrative that the equipment had always been at work at NQ.
To marry the alleged forged letter, another letter dated June 17, 2013, was reportedly written by the contractor in collusion with the senior NQ official to confirm the arrangement for the bulldozer.
The letter was addressed to Fernandez and stated:
“I would like to thank you for the meeting today and would like to confirm the arrangements made for the purchase of a caterpillar D8R bulldozer from ER Truck and Equipment.
“National Quarries Company Limited would pay the freight and other charges for my company. These charges are to be deducted as discussed over four months. During this time, I would lower the rate from four hundred and seventy-five dollars ($475) per hour to four hundred ($400) per hour.”
The Express was not unable to contact the contractor at the number listed on the company’s letterhead nor did he respond to an e-mail sent to the company’s address, which was also listed on the letterhead.
Investigations by the Express have revealed that a note for the wire-transfer payment to the broker firm, Global Trade and Financing, was sent on June 17 and an invoice was made out by the Equipment Company on July 1.
Other documents, which are alleged to have been forged are the invoices, which were done by the contractor for the months of July and August but bore a NQ stamp of October 8 as having been received.
The sum invoiced is $25,530 for the month of July and $80,500 for the month of August with a tag: “Rental of Equipment for the period.”
All these documents were sent to the ministry as part of NQ’s defence for the acquisition of the equipment.
However, it did not address how the equipment came to work at Gopaul’s worksite at the Beetham Landfill or ended up in Gopaul’s yard for repairs.
1. That the prices of the equipment were inflated. The Volvo Hydraulic Excavator EC460BLC was valued at US$92,000 (TT$579,600) and a Caterpillar Crawler Dozer D8R Series valued at US$94,000 (TT$592,200) with a total price of US$186,000 (TT$1,171,800).
2. That NQ paid a broker firm, Global Trade and Financing, US$317,968.65($2 million) for only an excavator.
3. After three months, Global Trade and Financing had not repaid an erroneous over-payment of US$110,000 ($693,000) to NQ.