[www.inewsguyana.com] – Leila King, the former Consul General of Guyana in Boa Vista, says she now feels “ashamed” of being a Guyanese after the treatment she received at the hands of the Foreign Ministry.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues – Birkette on Monday (December 22) said King was dismissed after she failed to pay workers a 15% increase that was approved by government for staff of overseas missions.
Ms King, during a recent interview, denies any wrongdoing, but admits her interest in running the Consul efficiently, breached financial protocols.
“I received a letter in 2013 from one of the staff members that heard about this increase but they never received; on checking none of them received it. One example, there was no explanation as to why the staff wasn’t even informed,” Rodrigues-Birkette said.
This and a series of wrongdoings on Ms King’s part led to her being fired, the Minister told reporters at her Takuba Lodge, Georgetown Office.
However, King has said if the Ministry had allowed her the right to defend the allegations leveled against her, the matters could have been ironed out, as she acted out of ignorance of the systems in the diplomatic machinery.
She said her non-payment of the salary increase had to do with the Ministry’s own lackadaisical attitude in not honouring financial obligations of the Consul in a timely manner.
She said that salaries for the beginning of the year – 2013 – were late and she used the money sent as the 15% increase in salaries to cover salary obligations along with a staff bonus. She had hoped the finances could then be ironed out when there was a new disbursement to the Consul to pay salaries. However, that never came.
When the non-payment of the 15% increase was cited by a staff member, King was ordered to the Minister’s office.
“The Minister told me the Ministry sent money for this and that and she wanted to know what happened to the money,” King said in the interview.
She was sent on leave pending an audit, which resulted in her being dismissed. However, King claims that due process was not followed and she was not given a hearing during the audit process.
She said she had no experience in public service and had asked for someone to train her and the Consulate staff.
“I had no idea how the service works.” She said a Ministry official visited to conduct training, but had no modules or anything to work with, so that visit was useless.
And so, King said she operated as she would usually conduct her business affairs.
“The private sector never let things stop, it’s always working, and that’s the attitude I had.”
And so in the absence of strict guidelines under which she was expected to operate, King admits she breached financial regulations.
“I only knew after the fact that it was the wrong thing I was doing,” King said.
For example, sometimes when she would receive money to go on a trip; she would use whatever money is left back to buy something for the consulate. At times, when she would not make the trips, instead of sending the money back, she used it to buy other materials for the Consulate.
She cited one example.
“This money had to go back to them, but I took the money and bought a sofa because they never sent me capital and it was a shame to go into the Consulate to see there is nothing.
“They wanted me to send back that money, but I take that money and used it as a capital.”
King feels that her efforts and sacrifices for Guyana went down the drain. She wished she had been given a hearing to clarify matters.
“I spent one month of my holiday at home waiting on a phone call to defend myself, to clarify anything they wanted to know and nothing like that happened.
“Each story there are two sides; so you have to listen to one side and listen to the other side, but I didn’t get the opportunity to defend myself.
“It made me feel something like you are being used and thrown away. And I am a Guyanese; I was there working for my country, and nobody gave me the value. They didn’t respect me.”
King, who escaped with her family to Boa Vista following the Rupununi Uprising of 1969, later spent many years promoting trade and tourism between Guyana and Brazil. She was appointed to the Guyana Consulate in Boa Vista in August 2011.
“At this moment I feel so ashamed to be a Guyanese. There is no respect, there is no consideration, they wouldn’t treat you like a human.”