Two retired policemen say they are fed up with the many excuses they have received about their pension increase which was stolen from the Guyana Police Force (GPF) Finance Office in January and they are pleading for the “small” payments to be made to them before the year ends.
The officers, who dedicated more than a decade of their lives to law enforcement, said that the poor level of investigation into the disappearance of $3.5 million reflects badly on the image of the GPF. The money was discovered missing on January 5. Three officers were initially held for questioning before being released. Commissioner of Police Henry Greene had said several weeks after the discovery that the officers were transferred to different areas.
Stabroek News was recently informed that about 80 pensioners have been affected as a result of the incident. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, in an invited comment on Tuesday, said that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had recommended that no charges be laid against the ranks. He said that the GPF is currently working with the Ministry of Finance to get money to pay the affected pensioners.
Speaking to this newspaper recently, one of the policemen, who declined to be named for fear of victimization, said that when he inquired about his money last month he was told that the matter was being looked at. “Imagine 11 months passed and they still looking into it. Could that be fair?” the 59-year-old former Police Corporal said.
He explained that in December last year, President Bharrat Jagdeo had announc-ed a 6% increase across-the-board for public servants, including the police and police pensioners. The policeman, who retired in 2007, was among some 80 persons who went to the Police Finance Office in early January only to be told that the money was stolen. “The police doing criminal acts, defrauding other police! The people outside will do worse! They are not setting a good example at all,” the upset man told this newspaper via telephone.
The man said that what got him even more upset was that those implicated “were just transferred.” He said that every month when he goes to collect his pension at the Finance Office he enquires about his money.
He noted that the pension he receives is already small and last year’s increase would have done something for him. He was due to receive about $10,000 extra and he said he would be happy if he could get his money on the next pension date. “This thing is very, very unfair. It doesn’t portray a good image to the public at all. Just imagine the police thiefing pensioner’s money,” he said, while adding that pensioners worked hard for the increase, especially during the crime spree when they had to put their lives at risk.
Another pensioner, Whitney Thorington, 66, told this newspaper that every time he enquires about the money he is told that it is with the DPP. He said that as recent as two months ago he was told this by the Finance Officer. “That is always the excuse. It (the matter) can’t be there for 11 months. Is not a murder case they investigating!” he added.
According to Thorington, who retired in 1988 at the rank of Corporal, the treatment he and the other pensioners are receiving is unfair. “I feel bad because I depend on it (the pension) and I would have gotten an additional $12, 000. I want it before the end of the year because I worked for it,” the man stressed.
According to him, police ranks stealing the money wasn’t his fault. “They are supposed to secure it. People who went early got it (their money) and that is not fair,” he said, before explaining that if it was a case that no one had received their money “I wouldn’t have felt so bad.”
Speaking about the investigation, Thorington said that more should have been done since lots of money was involved. ‘That money was stolen by law enforcement officers,” he said, adding that serving members of the force got their increase in December. “I served them for 22 years and this is what they did. I worked so hard, spent three, four days out of my house, had to sleep in car… Now the time has come for you to enjoy
your money, you can’t. Someone enjoying it for you and that is not fair”, the upset man said.
An Auditor General’s report released last month on the disappearance of the money identified several internal control weaknesses in the GPF. The loss occurred, the report had said, when unknown persons accessed a strong box within the cashier cage, designated “Cashier 3” at the Finance Office and removed some components of payrolls kept in the strong box.
According to the report, $1,903,769 of the amount was supposed to be used to pay a 6% increase to 201 inactive personnel while a further $1,054,095 was designated to pay a 6% increase on pension to 82 persons. A further $337,858 was set aside as a “one-off payment” to eight active personnel and $168,587 as a 6 percent payment to 11 active personnel. $52,636 was for a one-off payment to the 4 members of the Constabulary and $30,000 for the musketry. The loss of the latter sum affected two persons, the report said.
The Auditor General’s report said that a post-loss audit found that there were several internal weaknesses, that is, “records were not maintained of daily checks carried out on Cashiers 2 and 3.” It was discovered too that “in terms of responsibility, Cashiers 2 and 3 were functional in the Salaries Section, while performing duties as cashiers.” The lack of proper segregation of duties, the report said, created possibilities for the perpetration of fraud or other irregularities, since the preparation of payrolls was not separated from the payment of related cash.