Nov 03, 2009 News
– Botched attempts on safes at three facilities add to concerns
By Fareeza Haniff
A safe at the Grove Post Office on the East Bank Demerara was torched on Sunday night by person(s) who failed in their attempt to break into the compartment.
This is according to Chairman of the GPOC, Bishop Juan Edghill, who noted that two other post offices were also targeted by the perpetrator(s).
However, taking into consideration the security of these two other post offices, Edghill refused to name them.
He told reporters at a press conference yesterday that from reports, a welding torch was used to cut the grills at the post office in Grove and upon gaining entry, the same welding torch was used in an unsuccessful attempt to cut open the safe.
This was discovered by the staff who turned up for work yesterday morning, Edghill informed.
These incidents occurred even as investigations continue into a $1 million fraud in which 19 postmasters and a number of staff members of the Finance Department at the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) are implicated.
And as if that was not enough, it was revealed that several other cases of fraud have also been discovered.
Edghill pointed out that the bulk of the fraud was discovered at the Grove Post Office.
According to Edghill, the postmaster was found to be short of over $900,000.
He is currently under investigation, as his family has commenced repaying the money.
The postmaster at the Mabaruma Post Office was reportedly found with more than $1 million short.
According to Edghill, this postmaster prepared a transaction that was fraudulent, indicating that the money was paid to a customer.
When this was discovered, the postmaster located the money and destroyed the documents to cover his tracks. In this regard, the GPOC chairman said that his services have since been terminated.
At Port Kaituma as well, the postmaster was found to be more than $1 million in the red.
“Our postmasters work hard, our postmasters deliver, our postmasters stand up there and face the public, but there are those in our ranks who are not doing us proud and we cannot continue to cover.”
Meanwhile, the dishonesty continues to unfold within the corporation as it was found that postmasters were paying NIS November vouchers ahead of time.
“A voucher that is valid in November is being paid in August…you know that is what? You have given a loan…it has been happening over and over. Old age voucher pensions are being paid ahead of time. Something is due on this date, but it is being paid in advance,” Edghill explained.
It was even found that the postmasters pay vouchers for persons that are dead. “Should we sit and be quiet about such matters? We do have problems in our systems,” Edghill admitted.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the $1 million fraud involving the 19 postmasters, Edghill told reporters that a management team is currently in the process of implementing systems to have greater efficiency and to effectively deal with obstacles at the GPOC.
The person alleged to be the mastermind of the fraud is stationed at the Port Kaituma Post Office. This person, Edghill said, happens to be a ‘casual,’ which is the lowest level employee in the post office.
Edghill revealed that during a meeting with the GPOC, the union and the 19 postmasters last week, he outlined two options to the postmasters, with the first being that they will be served notices of interdiction from duty to facilitate an independent investigation and to establish the circumstances surrounding the fraud or they can pay back the money and answer to the departmental charges.
In this regard, through the union, the workers chose to repay the money and to answer the departmental charges. As such, they were charged with negligence in the performance of their duties and deviation from standard operational procedures.
According to Edghill, some of the workers suggested that they could repay the GPOC via their leave passage, while some promised to locate the individuals whom they did business with.
He added that the meeting ended in good faith and the workers were given 72 hours to respond. However, in a twist of events, some workers changed their decision, as they informed the GPOC that there was not enough evidence against them to answer to the charges.
After this, the GPOC issued a statement to the media, revealing the situation. It was in this context that the Postal and Telecommunications Workers’ Union issued a statement demanding that the statement issued by GPOC be retracted or there would be industrial action within 72 hours.
However, this did not materialize as the GPOC and the union later discussed the matter, where the union had a problem with the image of postmasters.
“At no time at all did I or any of the management refer to any postmaster or staff as thieves. We value the contributions of our postmasters,” Edghill said.
The offices under investigation are Anna Regina, Bartica, Mahaica, Wales, Vreed-en-Hoop, Fort Wellington, Kitty, Campbellville, Bagotville, Queenstown, East La Penitence, Soesdyke, Rosignol, Charlestown, Bourda, Charity, Grove and Parika.
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