Police yet to charge Reg. 8 official suspected of fraud in Kato School feeding programme
Several years after a special audit uncovered serious financial breaches by an accountant employed by the Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) Democratic Council and the report was forwarded to the police for action to be taken, charges are yet to be laid.
The employee had also remained on the job while the police investigation was underway, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told on Monday.
The special investigative audit was undertaken in 2017 into the supply of dietary items for the Kato Breakfast School Feeding Programme and discrepancies into pricing of items in relation to 60 payments totalling $33.663M made to a particular supplier.
In 2016, it was found that the prices for items purchased were higher than that of similar items purchased by the region from other suppliers.
During examination of the region at the PAC, Accountant General (ag) stationed at the Auditor General’s office, Jennifer Chapman confirmed that although there was a “total breach” of financial systems based on the investigation, no one was placed before the court by the police.
When PAC member Gail Teixeira enquired about when the report was sent to the police and the reasoning for not laying charges, PAC Chairman Jermaine Figured shut down the question by suggesting that members read the audit report first.
The special audit was handed over to the PAC on Monday for perusal, putting a pause on further interrogation on the matter. But with lingering questions on how the breaches occurred, Regional Executive Officer for Region Eight, Peter Ramotar who had a chance to see the report from the investigation, would only say “checks and balances were through the window.”
The Accountant General claimed that the breaches amounted to collusion.
Ramotar assured that there is now strict adherence to the guidelines and systems to avoid a recurrence. PAC members were concerned that the culpable officials remained on the job even after the findings when the public sector rules allow for the person to be sent on administrative leave and further interdicted if charged.
Former Permanent Secretary of the then Ministry of Communities Emil McGarrell told the PAC that no one could be found to replace officer at the time.