JSC hears of fraud at Diego corporation

Al­leged fraud at Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion, now be­ing probed by po­lice, in­clude sit­u­a­tions in 2016 where the cor­po­ra­tion broke rules and paid a ven­dor in ad­vance for items which didn’t ma­te­ri­alise ful­ly—plus an­oth­er mat­ter where 300 peo­ple were hired fraud­u­lent­ly.

And the per­son al­leged to be at is­sue in the hir­ing mat­ter was trans­ferred from the cor­po­ra­tion to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment’s Kent House head of­fice.

The Diego Mar­tin is­sues and al­leged fraud at oth­er cor­po­ra­tions were de­tailed yes­ter­day to a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, ser­vice com­mis­sions and statu­to­ry au­thor­i­ties.

This ex­am­ined fi­nan­cial over­sight and sim­i­lar man­age­ment in cor­po­ra­tions. Spot­light­ed yes­ter­day were Diego Mar­tin, Siparia, Pe­nal/Debe and San Juan/Laven­tille Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tions.

Diego Mar­tin Cor­po­ra­tion fi­nan­cial as­sis­tant Ken Cal­liste said a num­ber of al­leged fraud is­sues have oc­curred. This in­clud­ed col­lec­tion of bur­ial fees where “some­how” (sic) a re­ceipt book was giv­en to the ceme­tery keep­er who wasn’t a cor­po­ra­tion em­ploy­ee.

Po­lice are al­so in­ves­ti­gat­ing the re­moval of six cheques— each val­ued $50,000— from a file by the for­mer ac­coun­tant in 2013 and paid to peo­ple who didn’t sup­ply goods to the cor­po­ra­tion.

Cal­liste added an emer­gency tent shel­ter ini­tia­tive in 2016 re­sult­ed in the ven­dor of items “some­how” (sic) get­ting paid en­tire­ly be­fore items ar­rived. When they did, it was found, some weren’t suit­able and when items were re-im­port­ed, all the items didn’t ar­rive. Cal­liste ad­mit­ted the cor­po­ra­tion doesn’t give ad­vance pay­ment. He said the ven­dor was “elu­sive “ and couldn’t be found.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Khadi­jah Ameen said the cor­po­ra­tion broke its rules in pay­ing in ad­vance and tax­pay­ers’ “mon­ey went down the drain. Don’t blame the ven­dor, blame the of­fi­cers whose re­spon­si­bil­i­ty was to ac­count,” she said.

Cal­liste con­firmed al­leged fraud in­volv­ing em­ploy­ees in­clud­ed the case of the 300 labour­ers hired via blank forms which some­how reached the pub­lic. Their em­ploy­ment let­ters were from Oc­to­ber 2016 un­til “fur­ther no­tice.”

Cal­liste couldn’t say how much this cost the cor­po­ra­tion. The mat­ters are be­ing probed by the Pro­fes­sion­al Stan­dards Bu­reau.

The cor­po­ra­tion’s act­ing CEO Shiv­as­tri Ra­mawadh said the er­ror oc­curred be­cause there was no cut-off date on the forms. She said the of­fi­cer al­leged­ly in­volved in the mat­ter was trans­ferred to the min­istry’s head of­fice.

Cal­liste con­firmed that the re­cent theft of six truck bat­ter­ies from the cor­po­ra­tion’s Trans­port Yard is al­so be­ing probed by po­lice.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Dar­ryl Smith asked about re­ports of the chair­man’s gold chain and arms and am­mu­ni­tion be­ing stolen. Cor­po­ra­tion chair­man Su­san Wong said she hasn’t heard from po­lice on this.

Pe­nal/Debe CEO Mooti­lal Ram­s­ingh said the case of a let­ter­head be­ing copied and the sig­na­ture of a build­ing in­spec­tor be­ing forged, is be­ing probed by the Fraud Squad.

San Juan /Laven­tille CEO Di­anne Lack­han said the case of $4.7mil­lion which went miss­ing in Au­gust 2017 is al­so be­ing probed by Fraud Squad.

Cor­po­ra­tion chair­man An­tho­ny Roberts said a foren­sic au­dit is be­ing done as he be­lieved “some non­sense is still tak­ing place at some cor­po­ra­tion lev­el.”

Roberts said the cor­po­ra­tion is seek­ing Linx sys­tems since it’s still col­lect­ing mar­ket fees via the ar­cha­ic process of a per­son “walk­ing around with a bas­ket col­lect­ing mon­ey, fol­lowed by a po­lice­man.”

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Daniel said the Linx re­quest must be ap­proved by the Fi­nance Min­istry.

- Gail Alexander

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