Jagdeo wants GINA Director criminally charged for abuse of public funds …says police double standards with PPP/C officials on full display
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, today (May 24, 2017) called for charges to be laid against the Director of the Government Information Agency (GINA) Beverly Alert, for the alleged misappropriation of public monies, following the glaring admissions made in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently.
Alert appeared before the Parliamentary body on Monday last and essentially told the members that the GINA staff were paid bonuses in 2015 following approval from the Finance Secretary; but under cross examination it was found that a Contingency Fund advance made in 2016 was in fact used to make the payments in 2015.
“Beverly Alert, shouldn’t she be charged too from the AFC (Alliance for Change) for misapplication, misuse of funds…she should be before SOCU almost immediately and charged in Court.”
The former President was at the time addressing a cadre of media operatives at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Queenstown, Georgetown.
Jagdeo used the scenario to point out that the Administration’s pontification when it comes to fighting corruption as nothing but a farce.
Jagdeo was however asked why the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Chairman of the PAC, Irfaan Ali, did not act proactively and perhaps instruct that the police intervene in the matter. He told reporters, the matter will be raised with the PAC Chairman but pointed to a hesitancy on the part of PPP/C given the demonstrated actions of the Guyana Police Force against the PPP/C.
According to the Opposition Leader, the Guyana Police Force has continuously demonstrated a double standard in its dealing with PPP/C officials as against the members the ruling coalition.
“We have had cases where we have called in the police on several occasions…the police have two standards now; standards for going after PPP people and standards for APNU.”
Jagdeo used the occasion to draw reference to staunch coalition supporter, Eric Phillips, a senior official at the State Asset Recovery Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency.
The PPP/C General Secretary pointed to statements Phillips would have made, interpreted to mean death threats against the Opposition Leader and senior members of the PPP/C.
He reminded media operatives the PPP/C lodged an official complaint with the Guyana Police Force and “until today we have seen no action.”
He wagered, had the admission to the PAC been made by a member of the PPP/C, “by now that person would have been before the courts charged.”
The PPP/C General Secretary and Opposition Leader, posited the entire state apparatus would have been brought to bear in such an instance.
“The same thing with the Ruel Johnson matter,” Jagdeo recalled.
Johnson; the cultural political advisor to the government had recently publicly incited the torching of the Sanata Complex which houses among other businesses, the media Houses TVG, Guyana Times and RGI Radio.
The former president conceded the “Public Accounts Committee must call in the police on these matters…I will talk to the Chairman (Irfaan Ali) of the PAC but I do believe it is time that we get, since that is the standard now that you are charging people for procedural breaches then the standard must be applied consistently.”
GINA Director; Alert, this past Monday, called for auditors to again take a look at the entity’s finances, since the data she was furnished with contained glaring inaccuracies, which she was unable to explain to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
The GINA Director, during an intense series of questions from Committee Chairman (ag) Juan Edghill, essentially threw in the towel and said “the auditors probably have to come in back…maybe we have to scrutinise the books again. I can only go to what was provided to me by the staff of GINA.”
The GINA Director was at the time being questioned over the use of a Contingency Fund advance to meet payment for staff bonuses at the end of 2015.
The cheques issued under the advance from the Contingency Fund were made in January of 2016, but the bonus payments were made in December, which led to the back-and-forth exchange, eventually leading to a call for the auditors to take a fresh look at the books.
It was pointed out that for the Contingency Fund to be used in such a manner was “going further into a cesspool”.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Presidency, Abena Moore, sought to explain that the money was requested from the Finance Ministry on behalf of GINA – which falls under the Office of the Prime Minister in the Ministry – in order to make payments to the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL), publisher of the Guyana Chronicle.
The debt, according to Alert, was incurred by GINA in the period leading up to May 2015.
It was explained that the GNNL was paid $9.4 million and the remainder of the money that had been requested was used to reimburse GINA for the bonus payments made.
The Contingency Fund advance totalled $11 million.
PAC member, PPP/C parliamentarian and former Permanent Secretary, Nigel Dharamlall at the time took umbrage to this state of affairs.
“I don’t think expending public resources can be treated with a slap on the wrist,” Dharamlall said. He added that it was unacceptable that Moore could just say the abuse of the Contingency Fund would not happen again.
Dharamlall called on the Auditor General to launch another investigation into the matter. According to the PPP/C member, “I think whatever measures need to be put in place, including disciplinary measures, should be put whether within GINA or the Office of the PS.”