… Chairman says not his remit
BY Utamu Belle
The location of $5 million garnered by residents of Ituni from the sale of scrap iron approximately five years ago remains a mystery, with the situation receiving new attention by councillors of Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Berbice) Democratic Council (RDC).
The money, which was reportedly placed in a social account of the RDC in 2011, has disappeared.
It is reported that at the time, former regional officials were signatories to the account, which had initially contained $6 million, deposited by the Linmine Secretariat.
Pressing for answers, councillors of the present Council brought the situation to light once more at the statutory meeting held on Thursday. Councillor Vladimir Glasgow asked that an investigation be launched into the issue and attempted to move a motion for same, but the move was shut down by Regional Chairman Renis Morian, since he noted that the issue had been brought up under “any other business” of the Council. Nevertheless, Glasgow urged that National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) be involved in the investigations.
“From the point that I’m looking at it, the fact that a previous REO and a previous Chairman are the persons who were responsible for receiving this fund, I strongly believe that we as the RDC which is responsible for making representation on the behalf of the people in this Region, we should look into this matter…so that we could have this matter resolved and bring those people to justice who would have probably mishandled or misused this money…We have a duty as Councillors elected by the people of this Region,” he noted.
Morian said however that the matter is not within his remit but that of NICIL: “This RDC ain’t give nobody 5 million so I ain’t investigating $5 million. If NICIL got a case that they gave somebody 5 million, then NICIL got to pursue the case…we don’t have no legal responsibility to pursue anybody for $5 million.”
Regional Vice Chairman Elroy Adolph said based on information he had received, the money had been handed over to the then REO.
Councillor Gordon Callender, who said he supports a probe and audit, noted that the Council needs to get to the bottom of the situation of what happened to the funds.
It was also pointed out that $100,000 of sales from scrap iron by members of the community was handed over to an official of the community for the construction of a bus shed, which was never constructed.
Councillor Charles Sampson noted that the issue is an “old one” and that instead of investigating the RDC should come up with alternative ways to have the money allocated for the construction of the bus shed.
Councillor Franklyn Karew said the issue was constantly raised during the 10th Parliament: “We were told of x person who had signed for the money and collected the check. I think it’s time for us to get this thing off our minds because it doesn’t make sense to go back into that issue.”
Under previous Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon, a committee was set up in 2013 to probe the missing money after the residents of Ituni had requested it in an effort to carry out developmental activities. However, the committee had failed to locate the cash.
While the Committee was not able to solve the case completely, it discovered that a sum of $1.2 million was the final withdrawal made from the account at the end of the year (December 31) in 2011 by an employee of the RDC.
No official explanation could be given as to how the sum was spent.