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Accountant’s explanation for ‘cooking the books’ rejected

Sunday, July 20 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Former auditor for the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), Chanka Seetaram....
Former auditor for the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), Chanka Seetaram....

ACCOUNTANT Chanka Seeteram’s explanation of how he treated a $31 million item in the accounts of the Hindu Credit Union mere months before it collapsed - which raised allegations that he had cooked the books, is rejected in Sir Anthony Colman’s report, tabled in Parliament on Friday.

Giving evidence at the Inquiry in 2012, Seeterram had said that he failed to disclose a $150 million consolidated loss at an annual general meeting; concealed a $31 million loss among “prior adjustments” in the 2005 accounts; back-dated audited accounts and rushed preparing accounts – represented as fully audited accounts – upon the request of former HCU president Harry Harnarine.

However, he later returned to the stand in 2013, denying that he had cooked the books. He recanted previous testimony, admitted once more to not conforming to accounting standards and blamed an unnamed typist for a crucial oversight on the HCU books.

His testimony reportedly resulted in a disciplinary probe by a committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, however the outcome of that matter - including what sanctions if any, has never been made public.

“This Commission rejects Mr Seeterram’s subsequent attempt to explain this distortion in the financial statements for the year to 30 September 2005,” Sir Anthony states.

“His initial explanation was expressed as clearly recollected detailed and explicit. His subsequent explanation was entirely unconvincing. Whether this proceeded from reconstruction due to faulty recollection or from deliberate invention need not be decided.”

The Report continues, “By the time these audited statements were passed by him in September 2006 it must have been apparent to him that HCU had no future unless it could be bailed out by GORTT or some other source. Were there to appear in the stand-alone accounts a deficit of $25 million, the Credit Union would be unlikely to survive....The manner of treatment of the losses on these properties was in the view of this Commission more probably than not a cosmetic device designed to shield HCU from the appearance of insolvency.”

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