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