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|Police investigating Georgetown City Council ‘mafia’|
|Tuesday, 03 July 2012 22:24|
…following issues raised in Ramon Gaskin report
THE three “mafia” officers, allegedly responsible for major financial irregularities at the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC), Town Clerk Yonnette Pluck, City Treasurer, Andrew Meredith, and City Engineer, Gregory Erskine, will now be investigated by the police. The police have been asked to take over the matter by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, and all of the relevant documents have been handed over to them.
This new development forms part of the ministry’s way of addressing the issues that emanated from the Ramon Gaskin Report and it was announced at a press conference the ministers, Ganga Persaud and Norman Whittaker, hosted yesterday.
Also present at the press conference was Permanent Secretary, Collin Croal.
Whittaker told this newspaper that the officers have been involved in “criminal acts” and hence the ministry’s decision to involve the police.
He told the media that the reports thus far “clearly” indicate that this level of corruption is not limited to the three officers only, and that others are to be investigated. He said the decision to involve the police was arrived at following Cabinet’s last meeting where it was discussed.
Asked if the ministry was not concerned that the three officers remaining on the job would try to tamper with evidence linking them to the irregularities, Minister Persaud responded that all the relevant documents from the council have been photocopied and are with the police.
Meanwhile, City Hall was called upon to provide a written response to major irregularities at the council, and what Mayor Hamilton Green has sought to do is to “politicise the acts of dishonesty” that were unearthed and shift the blame around.
Recently, Commissioner of Inquiry set up to investigate the operations of City Hall, Mr. Keith Burrowes, briefed members of the press on some of the financial irregularities that were unearthed.
Burrowes was installed as Commissioner by former Local Government Minister, Kellawan Lall, and his task was to investigate the operations at City Hall. That report was completed and submitted to the relevant agencies over a year ago.
The Local Government Ministry had asked Burrowes and his team to provide an assessment of the state of the recommendations that came out of the inquiry. Burrowes subsequently tasked Ramon Gaskin, a member of the Implementation Committee, with going into City Hall to have the assessment done.
It was compiled into another report and a copy was presented to Pluck before he briefed the press. The Council was asked to respond to the issues therein by last June 20.
Commenting on the response provided by the Council, Whittaker said Pluck failed to deal with specific issues and only sought to shift the blame around. Whenever she did attempt to address the issues, she missed the point and tried to exonerate herself and staff.
Whittaker said the response was rather “defensive”, but failed to give a satisfactory answer for the 18 issues that came out of the assessment.
Meanwhile, not a single recommendation out of the 40 keys ones that came out of the ‘Burrowes Report’ has been implemented by the council, but major irregularities have been unearthed instead, prompting authorities to vow that the three main players involved will definitely be sacked.
At the press conference, Burrowes had said that normally, in Guyana, inquiries such as this one end up on shelves and are never implemented. He and the team have however been following up this one, because a lot of time and resources have been invested into this enquiry.
Some members of the Implementation Committee have been so frustrated by some officers at the Council that they have refused to continue ‘wasting time’ there, Burrowes informed. In fact, the man who was tasked with assisting the Council with its financial management, at no cost, could not have obtained any information from the Treasury Department.
“I’ve concluded that it’s not incompetence. They just don’t want to implement them. But we are not going to sit idly by and have the work that was done by myself and colleagues go down the drain,” Burrowes remarked.
Burrowes reported how “shocked” he was to learn that of the four brand new trucks given to the municipality by the government; just one was working while the others, plus three more, remained parked.
“We started to look into why. And it led us to believe that it was deliberate, because then you had to contract other people. And we are now seeing a link between some members of the Council and these other persons,” he explained.
When staffing was considered, it was found that the council now has a record of about 800 members, but Burrowes believes that had this really been the case, the city of Georgetown would have been a bit cleaner.
“About 400 of those persons are phantoms,” he remarked, while acknowledging that this amount may be a bit exaggerated.
He said he had no doubt that what Gaskin presented was factual. When everything is confirmed, “there will be three people…we refer to them as the mafia, three persons who definitely will have to go,” he said.
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