August 30, 2011
PM warns: You will be caught in the end

Public Servants who function in an administrative position, who may be inclined do something unlawful with taxpayers’ money, have been warned that they may get away with it for a short while, but they will be caught.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves issued the stern warning yesterday during a press conference at Cabinet Room.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, was responding to a question posed by a reporter in the wake of allegations that over EC$100,000 has gone missing from the Inland Revenue Department.

“Those who are functioning in any administrative position, who are inclined to want to do anything with taxpayers’ money outside of the law, you may get away with it for a short while, but you are going to be caught. That’s the reality. You are going to be caught,” he said.

Stating that situations like this have happened in the past, Gonsalves said efforts should be made to ensure that systems of proper accountability and controls are in place, and if they are weak, for them to be strengthened.

The Prime MInister said he has received a report as to what transpired, and it appears as though there were “insufficient efforts at supervision.”

“Clearly, that is an important management issue which they have to address,” he said.

He said, last Friday, he visited the Inland Revenue Department and spoke with the Comptroller and one of his two deputies, as the other deputy was on leave. He said after leaving the IRD, he visited the Director of Audit and “had a conversation with her”.

It has been reported that in 2008, the Director of Audit stated that her division was not given sufficient access to files at the Inland Revenue Department to allow for a satisfactory audit.

“The Director of Audit was quite correct in pointing out that there needs to be greater openness for them to be able to do all the procedural issues in an auditing exercise,” Gonsalves said. He, however, added that he is not sure that this would have dealt with the problem which has emerged.

“Which is why I am addressing the issue from a standpoint of the apparent inadequate supervision,” the Minister of Finance said.

Gonsalves also disclosed that he was scheduled to have a meeting yesterday afternoon with the Comptroller of Inland Revenue and the Director General of Finance and Planning, “on a range of matters”.

“You would see that I haven’t sat down. I want to make sure that all the appropriate steps are taken to address, not this problem, but to address issues of accountability and control,” he said.

The prime minister said he was being very careful with his words, as someone will be charged in the matter, and he doesn’t want it said that as the Minister of Finance, he said something which had a prejudicial effect on anyone who may be charged, who is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

He said he had been informed that the individual who is alleged to have been involved in the matter of the missing money “went in with her lawyer on Friday, to the police.”