By Gary Eleazar
It is a flawed financial oversight system that has allowed the Guyana Police Force to pay more than $32M to store the remains of those killed in the Lindo Creek Massacre without raising eyebrows over the past four years.
This is according to Volda Lawrence, the immediate past Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is tasked with scrutiny of the expenditures from the nation’s coffers.
On Sunday last this publication revealed that Government is paying Lyken Funeral Home up to $750,000 per month to store the remains of the miners which were recovered at their camp site.
This amounts to a whopping $32.2M, so far since the remains were collected by investigators in June 2008.
Lawrence, in an invited comment, yesterday, told this publication that the reason this was not raised in the Public Accounts Committee before is because it would have been expended under a vague budget line item.
The opposition for years has been haggling over expenditures in the Budget under headings such as “Other” and “Miscellaneous” for which they say there is no clear definition of how the monies would be utilized very often to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
This is but one example, she said, where money is expended without raising an eyebrow given its vague nature in the books but turn out to be ridiculous expenditures on the part of the administration.
Lawrence told this publication that “once the payment has the necessary documentations and they are clean then the Auditor General wouldn’t pick it up.”
Reference was made to the Auditor General given that it is the discrepancies that have been uncovered by the Audit Office over the years that the PAC would most often scrutinize.
“He (Auditor General) would only pick up something that is not in keeping with, or is inappropriate in terms of how they (the Administration) spend the monies.”
She said that for the Guyana Police Force through allocations made by the Ministry of Home Affairs to be paying $750,000 to store the remains from an unsolved massacre for four years now is ridiculous, “and there seems not to be any thinking into how monies are spent.”
DNA samples have already been harvested from all of the remains that are being stored by the Guyana Police Force with testing done in Jamaica.
Crime Chief Seelall Persaud on Friday last told this newspaper that the police force had received some results from the analysis being done by the Jamaicans.
He disclosed that the analysis was brought to Guyana by the team of investigators who were recently invited to assist in the probe of rape allegations made against Police Commissioner Henry Greene.
Meanwhile, Lawrence stressed that generally there is never a follow up on the allocations to see if the country is getting the desired value for money hence the reason that the Opposition has been pressing for “Value for Money Audits.”
She drew reference to the most recent Public Accounts Committee report which was presented to the Ministry of Finance and the issue of ‘Value for Money’ was raised.
“We need to start to introduce more value for money audits so that these things can come out because definitely we are not getting value for money.”
She questioned too where is the end game for the Guyana Police Force in terms of the investigation and the storage of the remains, asking how much more will be spent to store the remains from which the critical DNA samples have already been harvested.
“These are the types of things we have hanging loose throughout the length and breadth of Guyana under the previous administration,” Lawrence opined while reiterating her belief that it is a flawed oversight system which has allowed for issues such as the now controversial storage fees to fester.
On June 21, 2008, owner of the Lindo Creek camp, Leonard Arokium, discovered the burnt bones and skulls of his workers, including his son, at the location.
Those who were killed at the site were Dax Arokium, Cedric Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres.
He had reportedly received information that the men were killed the previous week.
According to Arokium, he received a phone call from a woman who told him that some “soldiers” had shot and killed his men and burnt their bodies.
The Joint Services denied the claims made by the dredge owner that soldiers committed the brutal crime.
Police had blamed the attack on Rondell ‘Fineman’ Rawlins and his gang whom they said they had encountered during a confrontation at Christmas Falls on June 6, 2008, a few weeks prior to the gruesome discovery.
Fineman Rawlins and members of his gang were subsequently hunted down and killed, and the security forces had suggested that the Lindo Creek case had died with them.
Leonard Arokium, in an invited comment confirmed, that the authorities had closed the matter with the death of Rawlins and his gang members.
“The last time I spoke with the police, (Commissioner) Greene had said that it was Fine Man who killed my workers. As far as he was concerned the case was closed, since he indicated that all the evidence pointed to Fine Man,” Arokium told this newspaper.
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