Senior official in Accountant General Dep’t asked to resign over travel advances

The authorities are investigating another apparent fraud in the Accountant General’s Department relating to the issuance of travel advances by a senior official who has since been asked to resign by the Minister of Finance.

Stabroek News was informed by a source within the Ministry of Finance that the official was asked to resign sometime this week by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, after audits recently indicated that the official could not provide evidence relating to spending for trips made overseas by persons within the public service, including him.

Attempts to reach Singh by phone yesterday were unsuccessful.

The monies amounted to millions of dollars this newspaper was told and the discrepancies were uncovered after an audit began recently. The audit is part of a wider investigation which is being undertaken in relation to a multi-million dollar scam that has ensnared dozens in a pension fraud.

The source noted that the sums unaccounted for were spent over the past several months and he noted too that the matter might be handed over to the police, when internal investigations are completed.

A staff member within the ministry told Stabroek News yesterday that the authorities may attempt to play down the issue since the ministry is already in hot water over the pension scam.

So far  three persons have been charged in connection with the multi million dollar fraud for some 75 transactions which were made over a period of time.

The Finance Minister stated at a press conference on Monday that the administration will “spare no effort” in ensuring that those involved in the fraud are brought to justice.

He said investigations conducted by the Ministry of Finance, the Audit Office and the Guyana Police Force have led to the identification of 75 suspicious transactions which when totalled amounted to $196 million.

He said that 75 cheques were actually issued to 54 separate beneficiaries, at least 14 of whom had had repeat transactions.

Singh said that “all the beneficiaries who encashed those cheques” have been identified and many of them are currently assisting the police in the ongoing investigation.

The discovery of the fraud was publicised on March 1. According to a statement issued by the Office of the President, the fraudulent transactions were detected following internal checks by senior supervisory staff from the Finance Ministry, who, according to Singh, conducted “relevant intelligence gathering activities.”

The Accountant General’s Department, among other things, checks financial statements of all government ministries, agencies and departments and transmits these to the Office of the Auditor General for auditing.

Police have so far issued wanted bulletins for 27 persons for questioning in relation to the multi-million dollar fraud.

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