Apr 28, 2016 News
The forensic audit into Guyana’s passport office has revealed cases where internal controls and government systems were flouted in some cases when citizenship was granted to foreign nationals. According to the report, applicants have not been meeting the full requirements, but have been granted citizenship.
The report, which was compiled by Maurice Solomon and Company, Chartered Accountants and Management Consultants, was released yesterday. The audit is one of several announced by the present Government soon after coming into office last year. Maurice Solomon had been given the job for the stated sum of $5.5M.
It details that between May 1, 2011 and June 30, 2014; Citizenship was granted to 271 applicants from 41 countries. In 2011, 36 foreign nationals were approved for citizenship. In 2012 the number was 139. In 2013 it dropped to 69 and by 2014 it had plummeted to 27.
The top seven countries featuring in that number were Cuba (38), China (21), Britain (20), Brazil (19), United States of America (18), St. Lucia (18) and Trinidad (17).
These applicants, 151 in total, represent 56 percent of total seeking naturalization. However, the report documents cases where those granted citizenship would have omitted vital documents such as recommendations, income tax liability statements, NIS compliance and even copies of their birth certificates.
In one instance an applicant, Jinfu Zhu, had produced a sworn affidavit which stated that since he arrived in Guyana, he had not worked or earned any income. This was debunked; however, as it was revealed that he had applied for an extension of his work permit and had also produced a job letter from his employer.
In another strange instance the report detailed one applicant, Amechi Friday Chiawa, receiving a Guyana identification card four years before his citizenship was approved.
Other documents which were omitted by applicants who were still granted citizenship were police clearance, copies of spouses’ passport and spouses’ birth certificate and marriage certificate.
“It is evident from the findings that the internal controls and governance systems were not fully complied with in the granting of citizenship,” the report concluded. “An applicant is required to meet in full (the) listing of requirements which apparently were not met, hence citizenship in the respective categories may have been granted earlier than normal.”
The report recommended that changes be made in the existing legislation regarding foreign nationals. According to the auditor, a review is needed for the Guyana Citizenship Act 14 of 1967- Chapter 14:01; the Immigration Act 42 of 1947- Chapter 14:02; and the Aliens/Immigration and Registration Act 37 of 1947- Chapter 14:03.
“These need to be reviewed and be revised as necessary, for example foreign applicants for citizenship should be required to write and to pass an examination as is mandatory in other countries,” the report recommended.
“It is (also) recommended that for the future all applicants should meet the full requirements as stipulated, subject finally to ministerial discretionary powers enshrined in the present legislation,” the report stated.
“It is therefore imperative that stringent checks and balances be in place in order to ensure that the controls and governance systems are efficiently and effectively being adhered to.”
The forensic audit of itself deals with the operations of the passport office, with its integrated linkages and lines of communication and authority to the department of citizenship and immigration. Previously, naturalization functions were carried out within the then Ministry of Home Affairs.
Since coming to office last year, a Ministry of Citizenship was created to be headed by former Police Commissioner, Winston Felix, as the subject Minister. It wasn’t long before Felix admitted that major loopholes were present in the immigration section under the previous administration.
He had spoken of the state of the General Registrar’s Office (GRO), where he received complaints of corruption and where it was alleged that staff members were facilitating dishonest requests. In the case of naturalization, Felix had made it clear that changes can be expected in this category, since he believed Guyanese citizenship was being handed out too freely under the former administration.
“Guyanese citizenship is just granted like that. Our government will introduce some sort of test under naturalization. I think before any applicant is granted citizenship, they must pass a written examination, be able to speak English, they must understand and appreciate our history. Our culture must be appreciated, and I would think that is the direction we should move in very shortly,” had been Felix’s expression.
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