…probe into allegations of mismanagement still ongoing
…delayed due to James’ illness
Embattled Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James, who is currently on administrative leave amidst allegations of mismanagement of funds at the unit will not be returning to his post.
This is according to Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, who told reporters on Friday that James’ contract has not expired and that he is still on administrative leave.
“Some else named Ms Althea Padmore has taken on his functions. So, he is not going to come back to the job,” Ramjattan stated.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Leslie James, also on Friday, told reporters that the probe into James’ operations at SOCU is still in progress but that his illness has resulted in a delay of its closure.
“What I can tell you about Mr James, I understand that he has fallen ill recently and we are following up on that. It is dependent on how soon he recovers from his illness, then we will continue speaking with Mr James. But as you know, there has been a designated Head of SOCU in the person of Ms Althea Padmore and there is a handover that is currently in progress but Mr James is currently sick,” the Top Cop stated.
The decision to send James on leave came months after a special audit had unearthed several instances of mismanagement of funds and falsification of documents at the entity. The audit had also found some unaccounted-for expenditure which could not be verified by a paper trail.
The audit was ordered by the Police Commissioner in February. Although the Top Cop has not commented on the findings of that audit, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan had described the revelations as “damning”.
The probe into the operations of the white-collar crime-fighting Unit was triggered after the former British adviser, Dr Sam Sittlington, had made a number of allegations against the Unit.
Following those allegations, James was questioned over allegations of improper spending. This was in light of the ongoing investigation and audit which was conducted after the termination of the British adviser’s services.
The Public Security Minister had confirmed that an investigation was ongoing into the matter and he had noted that there were allegations of monies not being spent properly and had said it is now within the jurisdiction of the investigators to understand the spending procedures at SOCU.
After being fired amidst a conflict of interest scandal, Sittlington had revealed that SOCU had not been operating in the manner in which it should and he had said there are instances of improper spending.
The parliamentary Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has maintained that SOCU, which was set up to fight money-laundering and other white-collar crimes, has become a political Unit under the APNU/AFC regime.
The PPP had said that Sittlington was going beyond his advisory role and was taking on executive functions. It was pointed out that Sittlington was going on operations such as raids and arrests.
Questions were previously raised about the police investigating James and whether there could be any bias involved; however, the Public Security Minister had assured that the investigation was perfectly normal and that in addition to the police’s own internal audits ongoing at SOCU, the Auditor General could come in and take control of the proceedings.
He had said the police auditors were seeking to better understand the systems which had been in place for spending at the agency.