Old age pension fraud uncovered

-cops, auditor general called in for probe

A series of irregularities in the payment of old age pensions have been discovered and the police and members of the Auditor General’s Office and the Accountant General’s department have been called in to investigate.

In a joint release last evening, the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security and the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) said that “through diligently observing evaluation processes put in place to ensure the integrity of the old age system, they have this week detected some irregularities in the payment of sums as old age pensions.”

According to the release, “the initial departmental investigations reveal an attempt by public officers to rob thepublic purse.”  “The Police, Auditor General’s Office and Accountant General’s department have been informed and are in the process of investigating these discoveries with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice and ensuring the likelihood of recurrence is minimised,” the release added.

Contacted last evening, Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand said that she was only prepared to disclose what was in the statement.  She said that additional information will be made available in time.

Sources have told this newspaper that the investigation is based on a number of fake vouchers that would have been cashed at the Bourda Post Office. More than 50 suspected fake vouchers have been identified, this newspaper understands. The ministry distributes a monthly pension of $7,500 to persons 65 and over, who have applied.  The vouchers are for the months of August and September. Another source indicated that at least one person is in police custody assisting with investigations.

Stabroek News understands that the irregularities were originally picked up by the GPOC and communicated to the ministry, which launched its own investigation.  After preliminary investigations, the police were called in as well as the two government departments, to probe the incident.

During the 2011 budget debates, AFC MP Sheila Holder created an uproar in the National Assembly when she alleged that the government was using the Old Age Pension Programme to divert millions of dollars to “phantom pensioners.” Holder attempted to back up her statements with the findings of a self conducted study. However, Manickchand, in response rebutted Holder’s assertions and said that Holder had produced a study which deliberately misrepresented the state of the country’s Old Age Pension Programme.

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