Six months later and former Grove/Diamond NDC Overseer still to repay missing funds
Residents of Grove/ Diamond East Bank Demerara (EBD) are still awaiting word from the Ministry of Local Government as it relates to the missing funds in their Neighbourhood Democratic Council’s (NDC’s) account and the repayment agreement made by former Overseer, Balraj Budwah.
This newspaper has repeatedly tried to obtain information on the monies already repaid by Budwah. However, the Ministry has continued to remain silent on the matter.
The Ministry of Local Government continues to affirm that its oversight responsibility to the 65 NDCs across the country embraces the issue of transparency and it is yet to release information about the repayment arrangements by Budwah.
Financial discrepancies arose at the Grove/ Diamond NDC, EBD, and residents in the villages began pointing fingers to Budwah as they became more concerned about the management of funds.
Investigations were launched into the matter and Budwah was sent on “Administrative leave” during this period.
Kaieteur News understands that shortly after this, Budwah tendered his resignation, although it was unclear if this was done before the investigation was completed.
In a letter to Minister within the Ministry of Local Government, Norman Whittaker, (then Minister of Local Government) on September 26, 2011, Budwah accepted the responsibility of repaying the large sum of money that was discovered “missing”.
“With reference to the investigation carried out between the Minister of Local Government and the Local Government Department of the Regional Democratic Council, Region #4, Please be informed that I am in agreement with the facts presented in the report. I will refund the sum of Two million six hundred and fifteen thousand and twenty four dollars ($2, 615, 124) to the Council’s account on or before 26th October, 2011,” stated Budwah in this letter.
Kaieteur News understands that while six months have passed, Budwah has failed to stick to the above mentioned agreement.
“Why they can’t answer and tell us what happening with Balraj and our money? It isn’t right that they ain’t keeping we in the loop and we don’t know what happening. If someone had taken their money then they would have said something but they talking about transparency and clarity and they hiding Balraj dirty story,” one man argued.
More villagers from Grove expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which the Ministry conducted its investigations and dealt with the matter.
Another man opined that if the Ministry was indeed aiming for transparency and accountability they should publicly make a statement on the issue.
“If they flaunting transparency talks in we face then they should walk the walk if they want to talk the talk. They need to tell us something or issue a statement; they need to let us know what is happening. Does this mean that anyone can take money from a government office and build fancy homes and get away with it?” questioned the concerned man.
Minister Whittaker had earlier told this publication that his Ministry will continue to provide oversight on the relevant offices throughout the country to ensure transparency.
“The Ministry continues to guide and to provide oversight over the 10 Regional Democratic Councils, the 65 NDCs, six Municipalities and several Committee Development Councils (CDCs) across our country. This oversight responsibility embraces the issue of transparency,” Whittaker had said.
However, residents are concerned whether this may actually be the case since Budwah’s case seems to be pushed aside as if to be “hidden under a rug”.