Region Five officials chided over allowing ‘fraudster’ to walk free

Officials from the Region 5 Regional Democratic Council were yesterday made to answer questions as to why legal proceedings had not been brought against an official who reportedly defrauded the region of more than $200,000.

Regional Executive Officer (REO) Ashford Ambedkar identified the defaulting officer as Aziz Ishmael, a former Ministry of Finance employee who worked in the Region’s Sub-Treasury Department.

Ashford Ambedkar 
Ashford Ambedkar

Ambedkar stated that Ishmael, whose responsibility it was to verify cheques passing through the department, would usually insert additional numbers and accompanying words to figures which had already been signed off on, trumping up the value of the cheque.

It was said that Ishamel would then pocket whatever extra amounts he had added to the cheques.  Officials said Ishmael vanished during the region’s audit, and that by the time they had uncovered the scheme he had left the country.

First to flag the issue was PPP/C MP Manzoor Nadir, who questioned the vocabulary used in the Auditor General’s Report. The report stated that “the officer responsible for the misappropriation of $230,000 has only repaid $70,000 to date. As is evident, by the time the audit was conducted, Ishmael, who had returned to Guyana, had entered into an agreement with the region in which he agreed repay the entire sum at intervals.”

Nadir pointed out the fact that the use of such terms (misappropriated) usually suggests theft, which was indeed the case in this situation, and said that the matter should have been placed in the hands of the police from the inception. This should have been done, he said, regardless of repayments since the individual had committed a criminal act.

Ambedkar stated that the police had in fact been contacted, sharing that letters had been written to the Police Commissioner who informed him that the matter was being investigated. He said however, that when the man returned in 2010, the region proposed a repayment contract to which he agreed. As such, the full amount was repaid after several payments. The region in its statements said that $30,000 was repaid in 2010, and the remaining $200,000 was repaid by January of 2011 in a series of payments. Ishmael reportedly left the country again after concluding the arrangement.

Committee Chairman Carl Greenidge also inquired if stronger measures should not have been taken considering the gravity of the offence committed. Attempting to draw an informed conclusion on the matter Greenidge requested the counsel of Finance Secretary (FS) Neermal Rekha who stated that after the police completed their investigation the file should have been handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions Office for a recommendation on possible actions.

To date it is unclear how much investigating was carried out by the police force, but what is clear is that a file was never submitted to the DPP and as such the region sought the best way it saw fit to resolve the matter. PPP/C MP Bibi Shadick acknowledged the effort made by the regional body to recoup the sums, especially considering there were other regions and other public agencies that were in much worse off situations. Shadick also suggested that method selected was more beneficial to the RDC as an arrest would have led to the individual’s incarceration, which by extension meant that the sums owed to the RDC would have been permanently lost.  Nadir on the other hand chastised whatever checks and balances system was being employed by the region for its obvious inefficiencies. He stated that the systems that were put in place should have been efficient enough to detect the insertions. He maintained that the requisite persons and mechanisms that are in place ought to have prevented the occurrence.  On this note Nadir asked what was being done to ensure that this and any other “misappropriation” is prevented from occurring.  Auditor General Deodat Sharma explained to the committee that the Integrated Financial Management and Accounting System (IFMAS) now being utilised by the Finance Ministry now make such acts unlikely. Sharma, as well as the Accountant General however, did state that while this system is very effective, it does not entirely rule out the possibility of a reoccurrence.

As an additional precaution, APNU MP Volda Lawrence suggested that more frequent checks of the system may enable the officials to uncover and deal with such incidences at a much faster rate than is currently happening.

More in Local News

default placeholder

‘Prime’ suspects in Corentyne triple murder held

Police yesterday arrested seven more persons in connection with last week’s shocking triple murder at Black Bush Polder including two prime suspects.

Bishnarine Persaud

Bandits raid Sanjay’s jewellery store

Four bandits carted off millions of dollars in cash and jewellery on Saturday night after holding the owner of Sanjay’s Jewellery at gunpoint at his Sheriff Street home.

Wavel Sabsook

Electrician dies in Diamond crash

An electrician died just after midnight yesterday after he was thrown out of the car he was in after the driver lost control and crashed into a fence at Diamond, East Bank Demerara.

default placeholder

Committee agrees on candidates for Public Procurement Commission

Five persons to serve on the long-awaited Public Procurement Commission (PPC) have been selected and a report from the body responsible for the shortlisting, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will be presented to the National Assembly at next week Thursday’s sitting, sources say.

default placeholder

Four months on, Harmon’s China trip has produced no results

Four months after a controversial trip to China, there has been no favourable outcome on two major issues that Minister of State Joseph Harmon engaged in.

Leekha Rambrich

Drastic fall in rice sowing over El Niño – Rambrich

The El Niño dry weather has resulted in a drastic decline in rice cultivation this year, especially in Leguan and the Essequibo Coast and in the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary creeks.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: