Fraud found at 3 regional corporations

There have been in­stances of fraud found in three re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions - and eyes are fo­cussed on a fourth.

Fraud in­volv­ing cheques, food badges and miss­ing bags of ce­ment have been re­port­ed at the San Fer­nan­do, Ari­ma and Point Fortin cor­po­ra­tions - and Ch­agua­nas Cor­po­ra­tions has been heav­i­ly hit by al­le­ga­tions of fraud and cor­rup­tion in cer­tain ar­eas.

Heads of those cor­po­ra­tions con­firmed fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ty yes­ter­day when they ap­peared be­fore Par­lia­ment’s Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee on lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, ser­vice com­mis­sions and statu­to­ry au­thor­i­ties. May­ors and CEOs of San Fer­nan­do, Ari­ma, Point Fortin, Ch­agua­nas and Port-of-Spain ap­peared be­fore the JSC.

The Com­mit­tee head­ed by In­de­pen­dent sen­a­tor Dr Var­ma Deyals­ingh ex­am­ined the fi­nan­cial over­sight and man­age­ment at cor­po­ra­tions.

How­ev­er, JSC mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern about cor­po­ra­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ re­luc­tance to talk about prob­lems - from fraud to oth­er ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties - af­fect­ing their cor­po­ra­tions.

“I’m some­what dis­ap­point­ed CEOs are not seiz­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ty to come to this in­quiry with clean hands,” JSC mem­ber Jen­nifer Bap­tise-Primus said, adding that for cor­po­ra­tion heads to sug­gest “...all’s well and hunky do­ry” was dis­ap­point­ing.

Among is­sues, rep­re­sen­ta­tives were asked about fraud in­stances in their re­gion­al dis­trict.

Port-of-Spain Cor­po­ra­tion CEO An­nette Sta­ple­ton-Seaforth said noth­ing was re­port­ed at her cor­po­ra­tion. San Fer­nan­do cor­po­ra­tion CEO In­dar­jit Singh said an in­stance of 16 fraud­u­lent cheques was re­port­ed to po­lice. Cheques were in de­nom­i­na­tions of $3,000 and more and most were cir­cu­lat­ed in the Port-of-Spain ar­eas.

Ari­ma May­or Lisa Mor­ris-Ju­lian said in­ci­dents of fraud had oc­curred in­volv­ing cheques, food badges and the pay­roll sys­tem. The pay­roll is­sue which oc­curred re­cent­ly in­volved peo­ple who had re­tired and whose names had been put back on the cor­po­ra­tion’s pay­roll. She said it was found im­me­di­ate­ly and dealt with.

She said a fraud­u­lent cheque mat­ter is now in court. The cor­po­ra­tion has al­so im­ple­ment­ed sys­tems to en­sure food badges are is­sued to “le­git­i­mate T&T na­tion­als” and on­ly for­eign­ers who have work per­mits.

Point Fortin Cor­po­ra­tion CEO Don­na­may Tay­lor said in the last two years on­ly one in­ci­dent oc­curred - 32 bags of ce­ment went miss­ing in 2017. Po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ed the mat­ter.

May­or Ab­don Ma­son said the cor­po­ra­tion will soon ex­am­ine a mo­tion seek­ing fraud and whis­tle-blow­er pol­i­cy.

Ch­agua­nas cor­po­ra­tion CEO Jameel Chadee-Ameer­al said a cor­po­ra­tion of­fi­cer was sus­pend­ed con­cern­ing the is­suance of job let­ters, but apart from that, he did not see oth­er mat­ters in their records.

JSC mem­ber Es­mond Forde ex­pressed dis­be­lief on his state­ments that no fraud was oc­cur­ring. His state­ments were al­so chal­lenged by Bap­tiste-Primus who told the CEO he could have changed his po­si­tion if he want­ed.

 - by Gail Alexander

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