As the trial of Dr. Jennifer Westford and Margaret Cummings – who are accused of stealing $639,420,000 from the State – winds down, a typist clerk attached to Ministry of Public Service yesterday testified in the matter.
Westford and Cummings allegedly stole the monies between August 2011 and April 2015, while they were employed in the Public Service. They have both denied an allegation of simple larceny and are out on $4.8M bail each.
The women are on trial before Principal Magistrate Judy Latchman at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
The prosecutors are State Counsel Natasha Backer and Teshana Lake.
Yesterday Luann King, a typist clerk, in her evidence to the court, stated that one of her responsibilities as a typist clerk is to keep records of all memoranda that are sent from all the different departments in the Public Service Ministry.
When the witness was asked by State Counsel Lake if she could recall seeing any records of memoranda from Dr. Westford for the year 2011 to 2015, she said no.
When further asked if she checked the records, she said when she took over as the typist clerk, she was showed approximately eight record books and she did not see any for the period 2011 to 2015.
After the witness’ brief evidence, she was subjected to a series of questions from Attorney-at-Law Dexter Todd, who is one of the lawyers representing the defendants.
The matter was then adjourned until June 7 when the prosecution is expected to call their final witness.
A few weeks ago, Audit Manager, Chandrawattie Samaroo, from the Ministry of Finance, had told the court that after conducting an audit, she was unable to find any paper trail to support the spending of $600M by the Ministry of Public Service.
Samaroo stated that on July 31, 2015, she received certain instructions from Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, which caused her to conduct an audit into monies sent to the Public Service Ministry for staff conferences, performance reviews, year reviews, skilled-based needs assignments, change acceptances workshops, training for scholarship awardees and social activities.
She added that she went to the Ministry of Finance where she uplifted the account analysis for the inter-department records for the Public Service Ministry and Office of the President for the period 2006-2015, and she identified the account analysis for 24 transactions from the years 2011-2015.
She then requested payment vouchers and supporting documents from the Accounts Department at Office of the President.
The witness had told the court that she collected the returned encashed cheques for the 24 transactions from the Accountant General and that she examined the payment vouchers and the 24 memoranda.
According to Samaroo, the memoranda had prepared letterheads of the Public Service Ministry, and were all signed by Dr. Westford.
The witness said that the memoranda stated that various exercises were to be conducted in various administrative regions.
It was also stated that the Chief Personnel Officer, Margret Cummings, would be responsible for coordinating those activities, Samaroo said.
The court also heard from Samaroo that the 24 transactions were sent to the Office of the President and were approved by various Permanent Secretaries.
Former Permanent Secretary Omar Shariff signed 20, Dr. Nanda Gopaul signed three and Technical Assistant Kamenie Seepaul signed one.
The memoranda, Samaroo added, were then sent to the Accounts Department at Office of the President for vouchers to be prepared.
The witness told the court that the Accounts Department prepared payment vouchers and entered them into the Integrated Financial System where they were passed for payments.
She said that cheques were then prepared in the name of the Permanent Secretary’s Office and they were uplifted by a clerk.
The cheques were then endorsed by Principal Assistant Secretary, Paula James, who then gave them to a clerk in the Accounts Department to be encashed.
The court heard that the monies were given to Alvin Williams.
Williams then paid over the cash to Cummings who signed in the dispatch book and on the payment vouchers.
Samaroo said that after conducting her audits, it was revealed that Cummings uplifted the monies. She added that she found no evidence that the monies were used to carry out the purposes stated on the memoranda or any governmental business.
Based on information, it was discovered that on 24 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.
The monies were requested to carry out various activities throughout the 10 administrative regions. However, personnel from the various administrative regions were contacted and denied ever receiving the cash.
Investigations were carried out, but the monies were never recovered.
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