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NPCB former chairman echoes call for forensic audit at the bank

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2015 | 9:00 AMEdmond Campbell

FORMER CHAIRMAN of the National People's Cooperative Bank, Bernal V. Neil, has added his voice to the call by opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, for a forensic audit into the operations of the institution that provides loans to farmers and micro, small and medium enterprises.

Neil, in a letter to The Gleaner yesterday, admitted that "there are high-risk loans" but made it clear that they were not given under his watch as chairman of the NPCB. "Some of these were given as far back as 2012. In fact, I was on retirement from the board when the biggest of these loans was processed and disbursed. I became chairman in 2013," he told The Gleaner.

Neil pointed out that following the joint special audit which was done by the Development Bank of Jamaica Limited and the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB), his administration sent a senior manager on leave to facilitate a special internal audit.

He said the internal audit, which was headed by the new internal audit manager, sought to determine who were to be charged or censured for the credit and operational breaches that were discovered, "and, if/when charged, to give the person or persons a hearing to determine what sanctions were to be administered, be it suspension or separation".

He said the ACB intervened before the internal audit was finished because the matter had received national attention "and they need to give a good account of their fiduciary responsibility. I have no difficulty with that."

Commenting on the $665 million which the special audit claimed was "unaccounted for", Neil said he informed the interim general manager that the money was now accounted for.

At a press conference late last week, Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier said the $665 million had been identified but was misused.

The minister could not provide a detailed account of how the money was spent but told journalists that the depositors' savings were used by the management of the NPCB for operational expenses and to acquire fixed assets.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com