– Claims due process not followed
Leila King, the former Consul General for Guyana in Boa Vista, says she now feels “ashamed” being a Guyanese after the treatment she received at the hands of the Foreign Ministry.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues–Birkett on Monday said King was dismissed after she failed to pay workers a 15% increase that was approved by government for staff of overseas missions.
Ms King denies any wrongdoing, but admits her interest in running the Consulate efficiently breached financial protocols.
“I received a letter in 2013 from one of the staff members that heard about this increase, but on checking, none of them received it. There was no explanation as to why the staff wasn’t even informed,” Rodrigues-Birkett said. This, and a series of wrongdoing on Ms King’s part, led to her being fired, the Minister told reporters at her Takuba Lodge, Georgetown office.
However, King has said if the Ministry had allowed her the right to defend the allegations leveled against her, the matters could have been ironed out, as she acted out of ignorance of the systems in the diplomatic machinery. She said her non-payment of the salary increase had to do with the Ministry’s own lackadaisical attitude in not honouring financial obligations of the Consulate in a timely manner.
She said that salaries for the beginning of 2013 were late, and she used the money sent as the 15% increase in salaries to cover salary obligations along with a staff bonus. She had hoped the finances could then be ironed out when there was a new disbursement to the Consulate to pay salaries. However, that never came.
When the non-payment of the 15% increase was cited by a staff member, King was ordered to the Minister’s office.
“The Minister told me the Ministry sent money for this and that and she wanted to know what happened to the money,” King said in an interview. She was sent on leave pending an audit, which resulted in her being dismissed.
However, King claims that due process was not followed and she was not given a hearing during the audit process. She said she had no experience in public service and had asked for someone to train her and the Consulate staff.
“I had no idea how the service works.”
She said a Ministry official visited to conduct training, but had no modules or anything to work with, so that visit was useless.
And so, King said she operated as she usually would when conducting her business affairs.
“The private sector never lets things stop, it’s always working, and that’s the attitude I had.”
And so in the absence of strict guidelines under which she was expected to operate, King admits she breached financial regulations.
“I only knew after the fact that it was the wrong thing I was doing,” King said.
For example, sometimes when she would receive money to go on a trip, she would use whatever money is left back to buy something for the consulate. At times, when she would not make the trips, instead of sending the money back, she used it to buy other materials for the Consulate.
She cited one example.
“This money had to go back to them, but I took the money and bought a sofa because they never sent me capital and it was a shame to go into the Consulate to see there is nothing.
“They wanted me to send back that money, but I took that money, and used it as a capital.”
King feels that her efforts and sacrifices for Guyana went down the drain. She wished she had been given a hearing to clarify matters.
“I spent one month of my holiday at home waiting on a phone call to defend myself, to clarify anything they wanted to know, and nothing like that happened.
“For each story there are two sides; so you have to listen to one side and listen to the other side, but I didn’t get the opportunity to defend myself.
“It made me feel something like you are being used and thrown away. And I am a Guyanese; I was there working for my country, and nobody gave me the value. They didn’t respect me.”
King, who escaped with her family to Boa Vista following the Rupununi Uprising of 1969, later spent many years promoting trade and tourism between Guyana and Brazil. She was appointed to the Guyana Consulate in Boa Vista in August 2011.
In the two years she ran the Consulate, King said it was always a struggle managing the office without resources and any clear directions.
She said that payments to the Consulate almost always came in short, with insurance coverage coming up short and she had to find ways of paying it in full.
She showed Kaieteur News documents to prove this; other documents showed that sometimes her requests for gas money would be ignored, with several months’ payments showing zero for gas.
King said she always worked in the best interest of Guyana and Guyanese. Several times when Guyanese would be abandoned at hospitals in Brazil, she would take them to her home and take care of them, and then pay their transportation back to Lethem.
“The hospital would say to me, ‘They are your people,’ and I would have to take care of them; I can’t leave them on the streets.”
King’s time at the Consulate saw partnerships with the Brazil government in various departments. She has received recognition for ensuring the Customs and Immigration Department in Boa Vista would be opened at convenient times.
Her posting at the Consulate meant her housing arrangements would be taken care of; but instead of renting a furnished apartment, King remained at her own home. She said that apart from her water, electricity and internet bills being paid, a request for funds to paint her house was denied.
“At this moment I feel so ashamed to be a Guyanese. There is no respect, there is no consideration, they wouldn’t treat you like a human.”
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