Fuel scandal under APNU+AFC: Stolen fuel from gov’t ministry was reportedly sold to Demerara Ice factory

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A police investigation going all the way back to 2017 when the APNU+AFC was in government, has found that hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen fuel from the Ministry of Education were reportedly sold to the Demerara Ice Factory, allegedly with the full knowledge of the company’s manager at the time.

The full police report was laid over to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday where Member of Parliament and Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill sought answers from the Ministry of Education about new systems to prevent a recurrence.

Edghill read parts of the report into the records of the PAC.

The issue was first flagged by the 2017 Auditor General report which found that the fuel was fraudulently obtained on 13 occasions by vehicles not belonging to the Ministry of Education.

Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill (News Room/ October 15, 2021)

The police investigation found that Mark Samuels, a driver who was attached to the ministry at the time, had collected the fuel in pails and used his father’s vehicle; his father reportedly worked at the Ice Factory.

The fuel was then taken to the company’s general manager, who reportedly bought the fuel from Samuels, although the company official denied the accusations in the police report.

Both Samuels and the general manager were charged in December 2018 with fraudulently obtaining a little over $1 million in diesel from GuyOil.

The Guyana Chronicle had reported in 2020 that Samuels was found guilty and he was mandated to pay back for the fuel.

Edghill pressed Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Education Ministry Alfred King, although he was not the PS at the time, for answers on why a thorough internal investigation was never completed to determine if there was any connection between staff at the ministry and employees at the Ice Factory.

King would only say that with the police called in, the investigation was out of the hands of the Ministry of Education with the expectation that the police would follow the leads to finality.

The PAC heard that efforts were made to establish the owners of the vehicles used but some had fake number plates with the exception of one which made tracking the license plates difficult.

“This is corruption…this is real corruption,” Edghill said as he accused the Chairman of the PAC Jermaine Figueira of seeking to block his questions and move on in haste from the issue. Figueira denied the allegations.

Edghill was also concerned that there was an offer to pay for the stolen fuel and that offer was not accepted by the ministry.

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