A Public Service Ministry employee embroiled in a scandal over the attempted transfer of state vehicles yesterday proclaimed his innocence and the former Minister, Dr Jennifer Westford, who is at the centre of the probe, has been advised by the PPP to take a certain “course of action”.
Police have meanwhile stepped up their investigation of the apparent scam to transfer eight state vehicles to five persons, weeks before the May 11 general elections that ousted the PPP/C from office.
Delroy Lewis when contacted yesterday by Stabroek News proclaimed his innocence saying that he neverbought any vehicle owned by the ministry and more so was unaware of any request for a transfer of registration of any vehicle into his name.
The recent disclosures in the media he said have left him, his family and persons who know him in shock.
PFF 1780, according to a cash receipt which was submitted to the GRA was bought by Lewis for $300, 000 on July 18, 2014. It is believe that this receipt along with several others which were submitted in support of the request being made were fake.
This newspaper has since learnt that the vehicle in question is the one Lewis drove for the ministry and that he had returned it on June 8th to the ministry, the day he proceeded on leave. It was Margaret Cummings, on behalf of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Hydar Ally who signed a letter of approval for Lewis’s application for 21 days’ leave. Cummings is one of two ministry employees sent on leave in connection with the investigation into the car scam.
Lewis said that he has been working at the Public Service Ministry since 2011 and would be celebrating his 33rd birthday on Monday, the day he is also scheduled to return to work.
He questioned why he would want to engage in a fraudulent act by attempting to transfer a vehicle into his name when he has bought his own vehicle from overseas and would be “clearing” it next week.
The man strongly denied that he had bought any vehicle owned by the Ministry or had knowledge of the transfer of vehicles.
He said that Cummings never spoke to him about buying a vehicle from the ministry nor had the police made contact with him in this regard. He said that he feels terrible about the entire situation because it makes it look as though he “is trying to defraud the government”.
According to Lewis since his name was called he did not make contact with Ally and would be turning up as normal for work come Monday. He went on to explain that he was told to proceed on leave as there was nothing at work for him to do.
Lewis added that he decided to go public because he wanted to clear the air and distance himself from the allegations which he has no knowledge of.
Course of action
Meanwhile, PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee yesterday disclosed that the party has spoken to the former Public Service Minister about the allegations. Webster is a senior member of the party.
Responding to a question during the party’s weekly press conference, Rohee acknowledged that the issue was discussed.
“Yes we met with the comrade (Westford) and we had some discussions and she was advised on a course of action to take. I believe she is following that course of action”, he told reporters.
Rohee sidestepped questions on whether the allegations against Westford had surprised him and if the party would take a particular course of action. “You are temping me to give you a headliner…`Rohee surprised by this disclosure’”, he said.
Pressed for his reaction he reiterated “we met with the comrade and we discussed the matter with her…I verily, verily believe that she is following that course of action. Whatever the course of action she is taking that is it”.
While Westford has opted to refrain from publicly defending herself, saying that she is media shy, sources say that party members are very upset about the scandal.
Westford was named by President David Granger last Friday as one of the persons embroiled in the attempted fraudulent act. Westford and her spouse are two of the five persons into whose names at least eight state vehicles were being transferred.
In one document dated April 14, 2015, which was addressed to Khurshid Sattaur, Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), a request was made for a transfer of registration to Westford, Wayne Walker, Lewis, Gary Beaton and Osbert Mc Pherson. This was one month before the general elections.
Two vehicle registration transfers for Walker were sought; one for Lewis; one for Westford; three for Beaton, said to be Westford’s husband, and one for Mc Pherson. The letter was signed by Cummings for Hydar Ally, the ministry’s permanent secretary.
Stabroek News was told that Beaton who is a senior army rank and Mc Pherson who is the Ministry’s chief security officer are still on the job. Stabroek News was unable to ascertain the whereabouts of Walker.
Based on reports out of the Ministry of the Presidency under which the ministry now falls, two vehicles have been returned. A $9M Kia which is another vehicle missing outside of the eight mentioned in the letter to GRA, is yet to be located this newspaper was told. It is unclear who returned the two vehicles.
Contacted yesterday crime chief Wendell Blanhum told Stabroek News that the investigation is ongoing. “We are still collecting statements from individuals who are named”.