Probe launched into missing $300M at GPF

— issuance of firearm licences from 2018 to present under scrutiny

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Been said that there appears to be a revolving door with the finances at the Guyana Police Force (GPF), where an investigation has been launched into missing funds to the tune of $300 million.

Home Affairs Minister
Robeson Benn

“An investigation is underway with respect to the Police Finance Department. There seems to be a revolving door between Police finances and the Police Welfare Fund. For the last year, or part of the last year, an amount of $300 million is missing,” Benn said on Friday during his contribution to the ongoing Debates on the 2021 National Budget.
The Home Affairs Minister noted that a forensic audit of the Force’s Finance Department is being conducted.
Back in November, a forensic audit into the Police Force had unearthed over $100 million being misappropriated and 100 handguns missing.
Several senior ranks of the force were questioned in relation to the missing weapons and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has already obtained the files and hard drives.
Among the guns missing are those that were lodged by private citizens for safekeeping as well as those seized from criminals or in criminal activities that are evidence in court cases.
The audit had noted that the weapons started to go missing in 2018.
Meanwhile, during Friday’s presentation, Minister Benn further disclosed that investigations are also ongoing into the issuance of firearm licences by the Police Force between the period January 2018 to present.
In fact, Minister Benn had revealed during the 2020 Emergency Budget debates last September that more than half of the gun licences issued for 2020 were done without engaging the Firearm Licensing Board.
“It appears as though 2020 was a banner year for the issuance of firearms at the hand of [former Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan] without the engagement of the Firearm Licensing Board. Sixty-one per cent of all firearms issued in 2020 were issued at the hands of the Minister without the engaging of the Firearm Licensing Board,” Benn had disclosed.
There is a three-stage process for licensing. It begins with an application letter being sent to the Divisional Commander, who assigns a rank to check on the applicant’s character in his or her community. The application is then sent to the Commissioner’s Office to ensure that the applicant has no previous antecedents or convictions.
The application then goes to the Firearm Licensing Board.  It is then decided, at that stage, whether the applicant is fit. If so, the application is sent to the Minister for the final stamp of approval.
In 2018, the issuance of gun licences came under the microscope after former Top Cop Seelall Persaud bypassed the Firearm Licensing Board when he attempted to grant himself a licence to open a firearm dealership as well as an upgrade of the calibre of weapons he is allowed to carry.
Nevertheless, the Home Affairs Minister pointed out that efforts are now afoot to address these and other issues that plague the Police Force as he emphasised the need for better professionalism to be displayed by members.
To this end, he noted that the PPP/C Government since assuming office in August 2020 has been providing the necessary resources to ensure that the Force is adequately equipped to carry out its duties. This, the Minister added, has resulted in the reduction in crime figures recorded.
According to Minister Benn, a review of the 2020 statistics shows an overall reduction of serious crimes by 6.9 per cent. This year, to date, figures indicate a decline in serious crime by 40.3 per cent.
“This is viewed as a response to an increase in vehicles, motorcycle and feet patrols, and also improving keenness of Police ranks… The reduction is also due to provisions by the Government of resources in the form of 45 motorcycles and the support of vehicles alone from the Government agencies along with better use of surveillance cameras and intelligence showed the efficacy of this Force,” he posited.
Moreover, the Home Affairs Minister went on to note that the funds allocated to the Police Force will be directed towards tackling the rising crime which he said is as a result of “the lapses due to the pandemic.”
The Guyana Police Force has been allotted a whopping $15.3 billion from the Home Affairs Ministry’s $20.3 billion budget.