Communication lapse to blame for Region Two overpayments -REO

Region Two’s Regional Executive Officer (REO) Sunil Singh on Monday blamed a lapse in communication for the payments of salaries and contributions for staff no longer working for the region.

Singh led a delegation from the region that appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which was continuing its scrutiny of the 2010 Auditor General’s Report.

According to the report, amounts totaling $226,821 were overpaid to seven officers in 2009, while the related deductions of $311,451 for the years 2006 to 2009 were made to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) Credit Union.

Singh said that the overpayments occurred as a result of a lapse in communication. He explained that the relevant authorities were not made aware of the fact that the officers were no longer employed by the region in order to stop payments to their accounts.

The Audit Office did find, however, that of the sums overpaid to officers, $172,436 had been recovered from six of the seven, leaving an outstanding amount of $54,385 to be collected from the remaining officer. In addition, the report stated that the amount of $10,200 had been recovered from GPSU for 2009.

Region Two REO Sunil Singh during Monday’s PAC hearing
Region Two REO Sunil Singh during Monday’s PAC hearing

Singh explained that through an agreement with its bank, the region was able to recover the amounts recorded in the report since there were sufficient sums in the accounts to recoup the owed amounts. As it relates to the unrecovered $54,385 however, he said that when approached, the bank informed the region that the account to which the money was transferred was empty. “The bank was written to in an effort to recoup the sum, but we were informed that the account was dry,” Singh said.  Furthermore, the region informed the Auditor General’s office that attempts made to establish contact with the individual who owes the amount have been difficult since she has migrated.

In its written response to the Auditor General, the region said that the officer who was overpaid had migrated and despite requests to her parent and emails to her for repayment no positive response was forthcoming.

APNU MP Keith Scott suggested recouping the sums from any assets the officer may have left in Guyana, but was rebuffed by PPP/C MP Bibi Shadick, who advised that such measures should only be resorted to if the person in question would have committed a violation.

Since this was not the case, Shadick instead suggested that the region seek to recoup the amounts from any outstanding benefits the former worker was due to receive.

But this method too seemed unlikely after the REO informed the committee that the officer had not qualified for such benefits.
On the issue of the outstanding amounts paid in contributions, Singh ex-plained that though several letters have been sent to the relevant agencies, no sums have yet been returned.

He said that part from the $10,200 collected from GPSU, the other agencies were constantly being engaged for the recovery of the overpayments.
Singh stated that the most recent contact with the agencies was made on March 13th, 2013, to which NIS responded on March15th, 2013, indicating that the issue was being addressed. No response, he said, was given by GRA.

NIS stated that its investigations have revealed that a portion of the contributions could not be repaid since several of the officers whose names they were made in had made already made claims. At this point, acting PAC Chairperson Volda Lawrence asked if the region has requested the repayment as a whole, or if it had submitted the broken down version, showing the contributions of the employees and its employer separately.

It was suggested that though the contributions made on behalf of the employee could not be recovered, those made on behalf of the employer may still be retrievable. Singh assured the council that attempts to recoup all outstanding amounts are ongoing.

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