Twenty-three cheques amounting to a staggering $639,420,000 were paid to the Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President (OP) between August 2011 and April 2015 to carry out various activities at the Ministry of Public Service.
This is according to Jennifer Chapman, Deputy Accountant General at the Ministry of Finance, Accounting Department.
Chapman, who has been holding the post for the past four years, was called as a prosecution witness when the trial of Dr. Jennifer Westford and Ms. Margaret Cummings continued yesterday, before Magistrate Judy Latchman.
Westford and Cummings are facing trial for allegedly stealing $639,420,000 between August 2011 and April 2015, while being employed in the Public Service of the Government of Guyana.
They have both denied the allegation and are currently out on $4.8M bail each.
According to court facts, Westford of Lot 55 ‘AA’ Victoria Avenue Eccles, East Bank Demerara (EBD) was employed as Minister of Public Service from 2001-2015, while her co-accused was the principal personnel officer of the Ministry. Cummings, of Lot 709 Section ‘A’ Diamond, EBD was also in charge of the Ministry’s accounts department.
It was discovered that on numerous occasions Westford signed memoranda amounting to $639,420,000 and sent them to the Office of the President for approval. Approval was granted and cheques were prepared and encashed by Bank of Guyana (BoG).
The monies were requested to carry out various activities throughout the 10 administrative regions. However, personnel from the various offices were contacted and denied ever receiving the cash. Investigations were carried out but the monies were never recovered.
During her testimony, Chapman disclosed that she is tasked with assisting the Accountant General with the day to day operations of the Accountant General Department. According to the witness the Accounting General Department is responsible for the preparation of annual statements which are submitted to the Auditor General.
This department is also in charge of the consolidated funds and ensuring the timely processing of payments; preparation of annual financial statements; processing of salaries and pension among others.
Guided by Prosecutor Natasha Baker, Chapman told the court she handed over 23 cheques to police which were paid to the Permanent Secretary at (OP).
However, the witness had to be refreshed about her statement since she was unable to recall the particulars of the cheques.
When questioned as to how she received the cheques, Chapman said that cheques for the period of 2011 to 2014 were returned to the Accountant General’s Office by BoG.
The BoG would usually return all cheques encashed by government agencies annually, the witness added.
In relation to the cheques encashed for 2015, the Deputy Accountant General stated that she wrote a letter to the Central Bank requesting them.
“These cheques reflected inter-departmental warrants from Office of the President for warrants issued by the Public Service Ministry.”
The witness explained that the Ministry of Finance paid the monies to the Permanent Secretary at OP.
She went on to describe the then Ministry of Public Service as a Non Sub Accounting Agency since it processed small volumes of transactions which were examined by the Accountant General Department, Examination Division.
Chapman stated, “All cheques are processed by the Accountant General Department and are collected in batches; for example the payment of salaries and interests as well as the purchasing of stationeries. There are also direct payments payable to suppliers and contractors of services done on behalf of that agency.”
This trial continues on November 28.
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