Acting Deeds Registrar under investigation for financial improprieties; Nandlall says allegations “incredulous”
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been called in to investigate alleged financial improprieties committed by acting Registrar of Deeds Ms. Azeena Baksh.
According to the Attorney General Chambers, staff of the Deeds Registry has called upon the Ministry of Legal Affairs to investigate their complaints of Ms. Baksh unlawful acts.
Both the Human Resource and Accounting Departments have complained that as Head of the Budget Agency and sole person in authority to approve and sign off the payroll of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority and one of the main signatories on the Authority’s Bank Account, the Registrar unlawfully paid herself gratuity well knowing she was a pensionable employee having been appointed by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the AG Chambers said.
It added that she further unlawfully paid herself a higher salary than was approved by the JSC.
The Deeds Registry officers have disclosed that these payments started since 2014 and continued up to the present and amount to nearly four and a half million dollars ($4.5M).
Moreover, the Deeds Registry has also laid over with the Ministry of Legal Affairs documents revealing that “Registrar Baksh out of revenue due, owing and payable to the Authority in or around the sum of $8,544,000.00, unlawfully waived the sum of $7,044,000.00 upon the request of an Attorney-at-Law, who paid only the sum of $1,500.000.00,” the Attorney General office said.
However, in a subsequent statement, Former Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall said the allegations made by the AG are “incredulous as they are nonsensical.”
He explained that following the merge of the Deeds and Commercial Registries to form the Deeds and Commercial Register Authority (DCRA), existing staff, who were then public servants were transitioned into employees of this new unit. “
“In the end, every employee who migrated to this new unit did so with an increased remuneration package. Each employee continued in their respective position or was promoted. They all became employees of the unit to be paid a remuneration package, which was negotiated with them individually by a consultant who was hired for this purpose. The individual and collective remuneration packages were then approved by the Minister of Legal Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and then by Cabinet.,” Nandlall said debunking claims that Ms. Baksh overpaid herself.
Nandlall feels that this most recent issue is a part of a long list of attacks on female personnel by the sitting Attorney General, Basil Williams. He also said a complaint was previously lodged with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) against Williams by Ms. Baksh after he commenced “harassing, intimidating her and threatening to send her on leave or dismiss her.”