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