Accountant Rupert Agostini, who is on record as the Auditor for the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) has recused himself from the investigations launched by the Integrity Commission into alleged corruption at the state body.
This was confirmed by Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph in response to a question posed by THE NEW TODAY during a press conference held Wednesday at the Public Workers Union (PWU) building into alleged corruption at the MNIB.
“Commissioner Agostini has recused himself entirely from this particular investigation…he is formally recused of all matters relating to the investigation,” Trotman-Joseph told reporters.
Agostini might become a person of interest in the inquiry since he is believed to have been involved in auditing the financial accounts of the Marketing Board during the period under investigation 2013-18.
The Integrity Commission member is also known to be involved with many state-owned bodies as the Auditor of their financial statements.
A local expert in Public Affairs has said that as an active Accountant, Agostini should not be sitting on the Integrity Commission as he runs the risk of having entities under his control becoming the subject of investigations by the Integrity Commission of which he is a member.
Trotman-Joseph did not agree with a question posed by this newspaper that the integrity of the Integrity Commission was now being brought into question given the fact that it was investigating a body in which one of its core members was involved.
Prime Minister Mitchell on July 31 announced that a public inquiry would be held in to the MNIB affairs but the Integrity Commission has since indicated that it will be taking over and doing a private probe.
According to Trotman-Joseph, Agostini’s recusal was not deemed a sufficient reason for the Commission to back off from the investigations and to allow for a more independent-minded and transparent body to conduct the inquiry.
“Why we didn’t do that I would say, is because we didn’t have to because… we have mechanisms in place including, accounting managing systems. By recusing himself and we are holding our own selves as transparent, by having accounting management systems, by having a recusing system (and) wherever the truth leads us I will follow those hind posts even if we are culpable and that is what truth and accountability and transparency is all about,” she said.
“For all of us am sure, this is transparency… and that is why we feel that based on all of this we can do what we have to do along with our local and collaborating partners and our regional and international consultants who are all part and parcel of this critical investigation,’ she added.
Apart for Agostini and Lady Trotman-Joseph, the other members of the Integrity Commission are Robert Robinson, attorney-at-law, Daniella Williams-Mitchell, Bertie Hill and retired Magistrate, Oforiwa Augustine.
According to former Cabinet Secretary, Elizabeth Henry-Greenidge, who is now attached to the Office of the Integrity Commission as Operations Manager, the investigation into the affairs of the MNIB officially began on August 2.
She said the Commission was not in a position to present a timeline for when the investigation would conclude which Greenidge explained is “dependent on the amount of findings that are gathered and possible, the need to go into more investigations, more interviews, et cetera.
“So, we cannot give a specific timeline,” she added.
Henry-Greenidge disclosed that the body has “not called in anyone to conduct any interview” prior to holding Wednesday’s press conference.
“We did have some initial discussions at their premises with the new Chairman and the acting CEO of the MNIB, but that was mainly to deliver our letter informing them that we were conducting the investigation and requesting some information,” she said.