‘Carelessness or collusion?’ – Public Servant who falsified documents in 2016 still on the job
Members of Parliament (MPs), currently scrutinising government spending for the year 2016, on Monday became alarmed when it was revealed that a public servant who held the position of Superintendent of Works within the then Ministry of Social Protection remains on the job although it was discovered that he falsified documents that led to the overpayment of a contractor.
Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar, made the disclosure when she appeared before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Hoosein-Outar, who posited that action has been taken to guard against a recurrence, also disclosed that the person who held the position as Superintendent of Works still continues to function in that position.
MPs quizzed the logic behind keeping the same person who knowingly committed an infraction in the same position.
The Permanent Secretary could not say what disciplinary action, if any, was taken against the public servant, but promised to review his file and provide a report to PAC within one week.
Hossein-Outar said the Superintend of Works carried out his duties without an engineer on staff in 2016, but there is now an engineer employed.
PAC Chairman, Jermaine Figueira, also asked for copies of the original qualification certificates of the employee to the provided to the Committee, to which the PS agreed.
Although the overpaid sum of $347, 738 was recovered and paid in four installments over the period September-December 2017, the Committee was concerned that the overpayment occurred in the first place.
PS Hoosein-Outar said that following the Auditor General investigations, which uncovered the overpayment, it was discovered that the Superintend of Works was dishonest in verifying works that he knew were not true.
Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, enquired into what sanctions or reprimand was handed to the employee that caused the contracting company – T Bars Enterprise – to be overpaid.
“Overpayments is not something that just happens, it could only come if there is carelessness or collusion,” Edghill posited.
His colleague, Minister Gail Teixeira, said according to the laws that govern public servants, falsification of records is a very serious offense, punishable by jail time.
Moreover, Edghill was concerned that the contractor entered into an arrangement to repay the monies over a period of four months instead of returning the overpaid sum forthwith.
“This is a loan? He paid back this money in installments in 2017 over four months…I now want to know if the contractor was given work during this period and if he was then he was given work to repay this loan,” Edghill added.
The PAC is expected to further discuss the issue and recommend further action when the PS provided the documents as promised.
The contract was for repairs and maintenance works being done at Ward 2 Palms Geriatric Institution and was awarded to the lowest of three bidders in the sum of $1.240M.
The full amount was paid.