Massive fraud found at Nickerie District Commissioner’s office

(De Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – Nearly half of the workers at Nickerie’s District Commissariat turn out to be involved in the big fraud case that has had the district in its grip for some time now. Yesterday, former District Commissioner (DC) Bhagwatpersad Shankar was arrested and transported to Paramaribo. The District Administrator and two Assistant District Secretaries, as well as other members of the Commissariat’s financial team, have also been arrested. Eight people have been allegedly detained in connection with the case so far. Of the Commissariat’s 47 administrative employees, 24 have been brought in for questioning. DWT has learned that 17 of this group have paid back the money they allegedly stole. In these cases, the amounts vary between SRD 250,- and SRD 10.000,-. They will be brought before the court in Paramaribo in the coming week. The fraudsters made extra money at the tendering of public works in Nickerie. They made deals with contractors that these would intentionally accept works at prices higher than agreed. The surplus was then divided according to a certain key.

The following is the DWT comment on the matter:

“THE STEREOTYPE QUESTION the community asks is how such widespread fraud could take place at Nickerie’s District Commissariat and involve nearly everyone in the hierarchy from the bottom to the top.

It is assumed that the system of payoffs, the taking of bribes, and the collusion with contractors during the execution of works has become established. There was also something fishy about the granting of licenses, permits and land.

During the previous government, many cases of fraud were exposed, even at the Finance Ministry. Civil servants were going on a rampage right under the Minister’s nose.

Those who refused to play along with the system are called crazy. Young civil servants who want to do honest work are infected at an early stage and are told to see no evil, hear no evil. In the long run, the apparatus is damaged by small-scale and large-scale fraud such as in Nickerie.

Nickerie is the tip of the iceberg. Due to the genius of the well-oiled system, it is preserved until the gang is caught by coincidence or leaks by a member.

This need not be because for years, there have been calls for good internal audit departments at Ministries, staffed with professional and honorable people who do their utmost to act as watchdogs. We cannot understand why this is not a priority.

What always happens is that the Central Government Accounting Department (CLAD) is called in when it is too late. The police’s fraud department has a similar function. Fraudsters are found and locked up after they have done their damage.

You can bet that this government will also fall victim to fraud as long as civil servants do as they please and they are not supervised.

Is lax policy to blame for this, or is supervision intentionally avoided to give politicians the opportunity to enrich themselves and their bosses?”

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