Region Nine administration workers still owed salaries stolen in 2013 robbery

Staff members of the Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) administration have reportedly still not been paid salaries from the nearly $3 million that was stolen during the January, 2013 heist at the Lethem Post Office, when a security guard was killed.

The salaries in question related to the period of 2012 and 2013, according to the Auditor General’s 2015 report, and amount to $2,895,000. According to the report, the $2.8 million in salaries were among monies amounting to $5.002 million.

The total sum of money also included: unpaid vouchers for 2012 and 2013 to the tune of $914,000; GWI stipends for 2011 and 2012 amounting to $214,000; a 2012 Imprest of $99,000; Revenues for 2012 amounting to $55,000; Revenues for 2013 amounting to $602,000; $180,000 for the supply of cooking gas in 2012; $15,000 in safekeeping for sports from 2009; the President’s Youth Choice Initiative funds of $15,000; and housing application fees for 2013 amounting to $13,000.

Speaking on action taken by the region in relation to the matter, acting Regional Executive Officer (REO) Kerwin Ward on Monday told a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing in the Public Buildings that letters were sent out to the commander of the division as well as to the High Court (the divisional commander and the Chief Magistrate were named as the recipients in the AG’s report) for authorities to look into it, and a response is still being awaited.

Minister Volda Lawrence, in response to Ward’s report that the salaries were not paid out, stated that the PAC had recommended to the region that such should have been done years ago, and that the Accountant General at the time had even advised on the steps to be taken with regard to the Ministry of Finance.

Ward committed to ensuring that the recommendation was carried out.

Three persons, namely Alvin Kissoon, Calvin King and Theresa Lovell, were charged over the fatal robbery.

It was alleged that they entered the post office and attacked now deceased security guard John Christopher and another guard, and proceeded to tie them up and beat them. Christopher subsequently died.

They were charged with Christopher’s murder.

The prosecution claimed that at the time of the robbery that the trio broke into five safes and stole over $9.8 million.

Meanwhile, concerns were also raised at the PAC hearing about a $90,000 advance that was issued in 2012 and has still not been cleared. Ward related that the advance was stored in a safe and was part of the monies stolen during the robbery. He said that the money was given to a Coretta Lyken in the Accounting Unit for the purchase of an air conditioning unit.

Asked by Lawrence whether Lyken had been one of the persons in charge of the safe, Debra Rampersaud, Assistant Secretary of Finance (ASF), related that the woman was one of two persons who had responsibility for the safe, with Lyken having a key for the “outer part.”

Lawrence said that at a previous sitting of the PAC, the region had committed to indicate whether the other individual responsible for the safe had signed off to a statement confirming that the money had indeed been kept there but no response had ever been provided.

To compound the matter, Chairman of the PAC Irfaan Ali noted that advances are not to be stored in a safe, but are for immediate use. Additionally, the Accountant General stated that the purpose of an Imprest advance is not for the purchase of capital items as was related, but that capital items should instead be purchased through the cheque order system.

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