The Guyana Police Force (GPF), which has for years been plagued with issues relating to the overpayment of salaries to staff, is now looking to go after those ranks and officers who were overpaid and have not returned the money.
This came to light during a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which met at the Public Buildings on Monday. The Committee examined the Auditor General’s 2016 findings on the Ministry of Public Security, now renamed Ministry of Home Affairs.
One of the findings was that the GPF is still to recover some $2.264 million in salaries that were overpaid to employees in the Force between 2010 and 2012. According to the Audit Office, it had recommended a number of things designed at improving systems at the GPF, which would have helped with overpayments.
But according to the Ministry, only 67 per cent of these recommendations were implemented as of 2016, with 33 per cent partially implemented. When asked by the Committee what were some of the things the GPF implemented, Senior Superintendent Calvin Brutus explained that they have been using phone calls.
“The measures we put in place are working currently, because we’ve gone beyond just waiting on the (termination) letters come. We rely now for speed, the information coming by way of phone call from the Commanders and Heads,” he said, adding that this system was put in place in August of 2020.
The PAC discussed a number of options to address overpayments, including “name and shame”. However, the consensus was that this would not address the systemic issues causing the overpayments, including the lapse of time in reporting and updating information on employee attendance.
However, Public Works Minister and PAC member Juan Edghill brought to the PAC’s attention the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, Section 85 (a) which criminalises any attempts of falsifying documents and defrauding the State.
Brutus also revealed to the PAC that even though the provision to surcharge ranks for overpayments exists in the law, they have not been taking this course of action. According to PAC member Ganesh Mahipaul, it may be time for the Police to consider doing this, to which Brutus agreed. Brutus subsequently clarified that the Force will be enforcing this law.
In terms of action being taken against employees who facilitated the overpayments, Brutus referenced disciplinary action in the form of letters being sent to the offending employees. He said that these warning letters were effective.
Issues such as ranks going AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave) is also something that the GPF is grappling with. According to Brutus, an average of seven to eight ranks go AWOL every month.
Brutus explained that ranks have been disregarding the policy of being considered AWOL if 72 hours have elapsed without any contact. Additionally, they have been flouting the requirement that they provide six weeks’ notice before resigning.
A suggestion by PAC Chairman Jermaine Figueira that the Police consider using email to bridge gaps in reporting, was welcomed by Brutus who said it would be taken into consideration.