Process I encountered to recoup bail money from city has potential to promote corrupt behaviour

Dear Editor,

In a recent letter `Why does it take 14 days to recover bail money’ (SN May 24, 2017 ),  I outlined the nightmare I encountered while attempting to recoup some bail money lodged at the City Constabulary. As I proceeded with the final stage to collect the money I discovered to my chagrin that the bottleneck appeared to be longer than the distance from City Hall to Imbotero Police Station on the northern tip of Guyana on the Guyana /Venezuela border. The process can be likened to a mixture of English and Spanish which any reasonable person would not comprehend.

Please permit me to briefly repeat some issues I mentioned in my previous letter to the editor. One of my friends was unjustly charged by a member of the City Constabulary for a very minor traffic offence and place on $8,000 cash bail to attend the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court. He attended as ordered. The magistrate reprimanded him and discharged the case. He experienced great difficulty getting back his bail money. He explained that he is residing at an interior location and it would cost him  $32,000 in transportation to travel from that location and back home to make an application at the City Constabulary to recover the bail. In addition he would be forced to return sometime after to collect the money when it is available. This will be an additional cost of $32,000, thus spending $64,000 to recover $8,000. As a result he gave me a written authorisation signed by two witnesses to collect the money.

I thought that it would have been an easy task to uplift the money. Here is the process I encountered. The prosecutor who is difficult to contact in or out of court is required to endorse the bail receipt stating that the case was completed and that the money can be returned to the bailor. Thereafter, someone from the court office has to check several piles of case jackets to find the one under review. The jacket and the endorsed bail receipt are then taken to the administrative officer for his approval. He is not always available as he sometimes performs duties at nights and is not on duty the following day. After approval is given there is a mandatory fourteen working days period of waiting to uplift the money from the treasury. I felt that it would have been an easy task to collect the money after the long and agonising fourteen days waiting period had expired.

After the expiration of the waiting expired I went back to the City Constabulary. I was given back the bail receipt and the authorisation and politely directed to the treasury to collect the money. Written on the wall is a notice stating, “Cheques etc, Monday to Friday 9.30-11.30 am, 1.00-3.30pm.” I gave a member of the treasury the authorisation, my identification card and that of the bailor as instructed by the City Constabulary. He examined them more closely than SOCU’s anti money laundering investigators would have done. He went into the office and returned about five minutes later. He told me that he wanted to see the identification cards of the two persons who had signed the authorisation. I was shocked. I explained to him that I did not have their identification cards. The witnesses were in the interior and it would take me at least seven days to get their identification cards. He uttered a terse statement, “Sir, you have to get the identification cards of the witnesses or you cannot get the money.” I left the office. While in compound I saw a senior member of the constabulary who will remain nameless. He asked me if I received the money. I explained to him what transpired at the treasury. In an effort to assist me he went into the treasury. He came out a few minutes later and told me that I have to get the identification cards of the two witnesses in order to uplift the money, that is the procedure.

I returned ten days later armed with identification cards of four persons spanning four of the ten administrative regions of Guyana. Perhaps, I could have qualified as a fit and proper person to be an employee of GECOM, but not as the chairman. I tendered my bail receipt and my identification card to a member of the treasury. He looked at them and went into the office. He returned a few moments later with a cheque for $8,000 written in favour of the bailor and asked me to sign for it which I did. No identification card of the bailor, no identification card of the witnesses, no authorisation was required.

Call it double standard. Call it inconsistency. Put whatever label you may want to put on it. The present process to recover bail will not improve the image of City Hall or promote public confidence in the operations of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council.

The process I encountered to recoup bail money has the potential to promote unethical and corrupt behaviour. Persons in real need to get  back their bail may be tempted to offer an inducement to an employee of City Hall to do so and that employee may yield to the temptation. On the other hand employees may demand that persons leave something to get back their money faster. If it has not happened or is not happening it will happen. The words of world renowned Guyanese musician and now Sunday’s columnist Dave Martins keep ringing in ears. “This is Guyana”. It might be interesting to find out how much unclaimed bail money is lodged at City Hall because of the system in place.

Something does not smell right at City Hall. No wonder there are so many issues and concerns with garbage and portable toilets at the Georgetown Mayor and City Constabulary.

All is not lost. There is the need for a more transparent and speedy process to be designed and implemented to refund bail at City Hall. This can be done if those in authority connect the dots and do some more thinking outside of the box.

Yours faithfully,

Clinton Conway

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Retired)

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