Jan 25, 2023 News
…accuses ‘small group’ of villagers of stirring up trouble in community
Kaieteur News – Residents of the Upper-Berbice River village of Hururu are accusing their Toshao Mark Gomes of financial malpractices and are calling on the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to seriously investigate the allegations. But the Amerindian said his accusers are persons with personal grouses against him.
Gomes is accused of unilaterally spending hundreds of thousands of dollars without the consent or knowledge of the council and by extension, the village.
The community recently received a $5M contract for the construction of a road, however more than half of the funds were allegedly misappropriated to purchase a tractor. “The tractor is not working, can’t use, the road isn’t finished and so we are here asking questions. No public meeting was called concerning the purchasing of the tractor and why he decided to purchase it. When questions were asked, he said the minister told him to use the money,” one resident complained to Kaieteur News.
The community receives millions of dollars in grants as well as royalty and other income generating systems. Residents said those funds are being misused. When questions are asked, they are being verbally abused by the treasurer. “She does tell you, shut up and you stupid and these things, hollering up on you and all these things,” another resident alleged.
They claimed that the financial records are not updated and cannot be openly scrutinized. In fact, the Toshao is being accused of not only misappropriating funds but borrowing as well from the Council’s Treasury without consent. “One time, we find out he borrowed $200,000 and when we asked, he said, he gon pay it back. Up to now, we don’t know if it pay back.”
Residents are concerned that the community cannot advance and development cannot occur if actions are not taken to ensure proper accountability for the funds. Last week, the council called a meeting for consideration of the village’s 2023 budget. However, residents are adamant that discussions concerning the previous budget and grants that were misused must be done before. “We ain’t see no report and the money them spend out and we are saying that for the last quarter last year, for October, November, December and whole financial report wrong, so we need to clear that up before we move on to this year.”
In response to the allegations, Toshao Gomes said since his appointment in 2021, he has been dealing with a small group of villagers who has a “personal vendetta” against him and are trying to tarnish his character. He said politics is destroying the community, but believes that a large percentage of the village is pleased with his performance. Relative to the purchase of the tractor, he said when he assumed office, the village was indebted to Jumbo Jet to the tune of $20M for heavy-duty equipment. However, because the equipment was not in working condition, a decision was made to purchase a tractor instead, which decreased the debt to $13M. Following a discussion with Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill, a decision was made to purchase the tractor with the funding, instead of expending funds to rent one. He said the tractor is not working because the very persons sabotaged it.
He said no funds were borrowed for personal use but to offset emergency expenses such as the purchasing of transformers so that the community can receive electricity. Hururu is one of the outlying communities that receives close to $2M monthly from RUSAL and royalties from forestry. That money he said is strictly budgeted for and reports of spending are at the Village Council for perusal. He said an audit was completed in 2021 and everything was intact and the Ministry is welcomed to execute another audit at any time. “They are just out to get me, is just a few of them trying to corrupt the village. I am trying my best. Since I am in office, I made a lot of development happen like the road and the ICT hub and so forth. Most times I have to go into my own pocket to offset expenses but I will keep doing what I am doing for the community,” he said.
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