Former PS Omar Shariff also approved memos, payment vouchers, court hears

Westford, Cummings $600M theft trial

Former Permanent Secretary of the Office of the President Omar Shariff was yesterday identified to the court as one of the permanent secretaries who approved 10 of the 23 memorandums along with the relevant payment vouchers.

This disclosure was made during cross-examination of Alwayne Williams, an accountant who is attached to the Ministry of Presidency, at the continuation of the trial of former PPP/C public service minister, Dr Jennifer Westford and her former aide Margaret Cummings, who are charged with the alleged theft of over $600 million from the government.

Williams yesterday took to the witness stand for further cross-examination by defence lawyer, Senior Counsel Neil Boston. The witness explained to the court that his role as an accountant was to examine the payment vouchers which he usually does twice. He told the court that after the vouchers are examined, the cheques for the requisite amounts on the vouchers are prepared by the Ministry of Finance. Williams noted that while the cheques are not endorsed by the permanent secretary, they are endorsed by a principal assistant secretary, who is authorised to do so.

Margaret Cummings

Williams explained that in the memorandums, monies are usually requested for projects to be carried out in the different regions. He explained that after the cheques are prepared, an accounts clerk would cash the cheques, and the money would be taken to him, to be parceled off into envelopes for the various regions, as designated by the memorandums. Williams noted that the parceling off of the money is usually done by himself and an accounts clerk. He told the court that after this process was finished, he would give the monies in the various envelopes to the payee, who he identified to the court as Cummings.

Williams later explained, using a memorandum, dated July 5, captioned: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation,’ that the money requested was for Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight. He said that the monies were parceled into the envelopes that were highlighted for the different regions, as stated in the memorandums and payment vouchers.  Williams made it clear that without the permanent secretary’s approval on the payment vouchers and memorandums, the cheques could not have been made out. He told the court that the aforementioned memorandum was approved by Shariff. Williams also made clear that all the processes that were performed, were done with the lawful authority of the permanent secretary.

Dr Jennifer Westford

Moreover, Williams under the guide of Boston, noted that Shariff had approved nine other memos, along with the payment vouchers. He highlighted memos along with payment vouchers: August 27, 2012: ‘Finan-cial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation;’ December 10, 2012: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation; May 2, 2013: Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation;’ June 17, 2013: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation;’ June 26, 2013: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation;’ June 28, 2013 ‘Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation;’ December 4, 2013: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Servant Performance Evaluation;’ December 14, 2013: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Service Evaluation;’ March 11, 2014: ‘Financial Assistance for Public Servant Performance Evaluation;’ May 14,2013, Captioned Financial Assistance for Public Servant Performance Evaluation’.

Moreover, the witness told the court that payment vouchers also read that Cummings was the one who had received the monies since her national identification number and signature were affixed to the slips. Williams also told the court that he recalled handing over the monies to her in the process.

Meanwhile, Boston highlighted to the court that some monies requested on the memorandums and payment vouchers were not the same amount on the cheques. The defence claimed that the cheques had been generated for more than the requested amount on the memorandums.

Boston told the court that Williams had testified that his job was to make sure that the monies requested, matched the monies on the payment vouchers and cheques. The lawyer highlighted that memorandum, dated May 14, 2013, was for $40 million. Boston told the court that the cheque issued had being in the sum of $40,070,000, which did not correspond with request of $40 million. Boston questioned the witness about this discrepancy but later withdrew the question.

The trial continues on April 7 when Williams is expected to be further cross examined.

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