The Guyana Police Force (GPF) on Friday afternoon announced the appointment of Althea Padmore as acting Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Newly acting Head of SOCU Althea Padmore
The Police, however, did not release the credentials and qualifications of Padmore, who was appointed to manage one of the most important unit within the force. When contacted, the Public Relations Office directed all questions in connection with the appointment to the Police Commissioner. However, calls to the Top Cop went unanswered. On Thursday, Commissioner Leslie James had promised that an appointment will be made before the end of the week. Padmore replaces Head of the Unit Sydney James, who is currently on administrative leave amidst allegations of mismanagement of funds at the unit. The decision to send him 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 is in light of the ongoing investigation and audit which was conducted after 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.