Mark angry at NEDCO’s lack of financial audit reports

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Wade Mark –

CHAIRMAN of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) into the audited financial statements of the National Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd (Nedco) Wade Mark threatened the board that he will take action against the company if it does not update its financial audits soon.

Mark appeared perturbed after learning that for the past three years the company had not submitted any financial audited reports. He questioned the board multiple times on this issue and was told the process had been delayed significantly by the pandemic.

“Move with post haste and have the accounts completed, including 2021, as soon as practically applicable. I don’t want to take action, but I will be monitoring the situation to ensure reasonable time, If we don’t see the accounts in reasonable time, which the committee will agree upon, we will have to take action against this company,” Mark said.

Mark was addressing Nedco’s chairman Clarry Benn.

Benn said when Nedco was formed in 2002, it had an external auditor Pannell Kerr Forster up to 2017. Another firm, Grant Thornton Orbit Solutions Ltd, was hired in May 2020 to audit Nedco for 2018-2021. The company will complete 2022 as well.

Benn said because of the pandemic some of the files needed to complete the audit were inaccessible until last December. He said the company was awarded the contract after a request for proposals was issued in keeping with all protocols, including approval from the Finance Ministry.

Nedco’s CEO Calvin Maurice said Nedco paid $335,846.25 to the auditors and owes them $294,153.75.

Deputy chairman Dr Mahindra Ramdeen, in response to questions, said the delay in completing the audited financials was a “chicken and egg” situation where the auditors could not be selected without an annual general meeting and that could not happen without the audits being completed. This conundrum caused the delay.

Asked about the company’s relevance in today’s market, Maurice said, “We are very relevant, we are here for the poor and those who are in need of us.”

He added that understanding the need to cater for not just retail businesses but light manufacturing and tech companies, Nedco will take a proposal to the Finance Ministry for approval to provide to people without collateral loans. He said the company will also be expanding its duties and offer the services of registering businesses “bringing the informal into the formal.”

Nedco, which was first under the Ministry of Labour, was moved to the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service in 2020. Asked about this change and how that affected the work of the company, Benn said Nedco had to “fall in line” with the vision of the new ministry. He added that the company now focuses on youths, which the ministry identifies as those ten-35.

Maurice said Nedco is focusing a lot of its attention on providing loans to young people in impoverished areas. He added that with the company now under a youth-centric ministry, Nedco, using its resources, synergised with other ministries to meet the needs of both Nedco and the Youth Ministry.

As of the end of 2017, Nedco had accrued $66 million in bad debt, the committee was told. In spite of this, as at the end of May, close to $30 million was given to small and medium businesses in grants.

Benn said a survey is being done that, when completed, will be brought to the committee detailing how the grants affected the businesses of those who accessed them. The entrepreneurial relief grant was sought by 5,457 applicants, with 3,373 receiving assistance so far.

He added that the Finance Ministry assured that by the end of the year an additional $20 million will be made available to assist the other successful applicants.