Following reports of grave mismanagement taking place at the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Police Commis-sioner Leslie James yesterday hinted at the strong possibility of him intervening to have the matter sorted out.
“There appears to be issues at SOCU and the Commissioner of Police (COP) is likely to become involved,” James said in a brief comment to Stabroek News. SOCU falls under the Guyana Police Force.
Sacked UK advisor Dr. Sam Sittlington as well as staff of the unit have expressed concerns at the way the unit is being managed by head, Sydney James. At the top of the list is the spending of the operational funds, which ought to cater for basic things such as the purchase of toiletries and credit for investigators and other staff as well as the current arrangement for the storage of seized cash. Stabroek News was reliably informed that Sydney James, a former GDF intelligence officer has not turned up for the work since the start of the week nor has he explained his absence to his staff.
Sydney James, who was accorded Assistant Commissioner of Police status took the oath of office before then Presi-dent Donald Ramotar in September, 2014. He had served the army for 34 years. Sittlington told this newspaper last week that tensions rose between him and James late last year when he began to question the spending of funds set aside for the operation of the unit and requested “certain information.”
He said that from his observations, items such as printers, ink, paper and toiletries, which are essential to the smooth functioning of the office and the comfort of those who work there, were not available. Additionally, he said investigators were not being given credit for their phones and there was no internet available.
He said he managed to procure a printer for the office but added that for three months there was no ink before he eventually managed to get the required funds from the British High Commission to purchase it.
According to him, investigators on numerous occasions raised concerns with him about the operational funds.SOCU staff subsequently shared similar observations with this newspaper. One example that was cited was that of the janitor cleaning with plain water as no cleaning detergent was available for several weeks. They believe there is need for an audit of SOCU’s accounts.
Sittlington also told this newspaper that he also had concerns regarding the process used to keep seized cash. He said that he was assured that the seized cash was being deposited into the Police Force’s finance account but he learnt that this was not the case.
SOCU officials told this newspaper that in violation of anti-money laundering laws, the seized cash is being kept at the unit and in some cases at the Force’s Finance Depart-ment. It was explained that the money ought to be in an interest bearing account. The staff said concerns over the state of affairs were raised on numerous occasions but nothing was done. Sittlington himself said late last year he raised the issue with a senior police officer who promised to take action but nothing was done.
The fraud expert’s contract with the UK government was immediately terminated on January 31 after it was revealed that he had registered a local branch of his company even while advising SOCU on training and a range of other matters.