Friday 10 July, 2020

Fraud scandal unearthed at Diego Martin, San Juan Corporations

Police are investigating several instances of fraud at both the Diego Martin Regional Corporation (DMRC) and San Juan Regional Corporation (SJRC)

On Wednesday, DMRC financial assistant Ken Calliste revealed that investigations are underway at his corporation as he was grilled during a Joint Select Committee meeting at the Parliament building in Port of Spain.

Calliste said one of the instances under investigation was the payment of six cheques, valued around $50,000 each, to unauthorised persons. 

He said the cheques were taken by the then accountant and paid to people who had never provided any goods or services to the corporation. This occurred in 2013. 

Calliste said another incident that occurred in 2016 was also under investigation.

This involved the purchasing of items from a vendor who was paid in full even though all the items were never received. 

Most of the items were imported from the United States," he stated.

"Somehow the vendor convinced the corporation to advance him the money to pay for the items. Some, when they arrived, were not correct so they were sent back and re-imported. We did not get all after that.”

Calliste admitted that it was not a usual procedure to advance payment to vendors but said this was a special case. 

He said since then, the vendor cannot be found.

The corporation also discovered last week that there was an issue with the payment of fees for burial. 

The corporation is now trying to determine how its receipt book came to be in the possession of the cemetery keeper who is not an employee of the corporation. 

Calliste said there were some six instances of fraud at the corporation but did not reveal the other three. 

Member of the Committee Jennifer Baptist-Primus reacted with shock as she questioned whether there were qualified financial officers employed by the corporations to prevent these things from happening. 

Several of the corporations present noted that they do not have adequate staff in their financial and accounting departments.

“We cannot, in 2019, have accounting units that are not staffed by the required qualified personnel,” warned Baptiste-Primus.

“It’s not a parlour we running here.”

Committee member Khadijah Ameen also chided the Diego Martin Regional Corporation which she said had flouted the rules and wasted taxpayers’ money.

The San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation was also grilled about fraudulent activity.

CEO of that corporation Dianne Lakhan said the fraud squad is still investigating a case where a cheque for some $4.7 million was stolen. 

This incident occurred in 2017 and an attempt was made to cash the cheque, she said.


Editor's note: This article has been amended to state that there is a pending investigation regarding six fraudulent cheques, each valued at $50,000, not $150,000 as previously reported. The headline has also been amended to reflect this change. 

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