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Guyana

Top city officials face sanctions

Town Clerk (ag), Sharon Harry-Munroe

…over money found in Chief Constable’s car

DISCIPLINARY action has been recommended against the acting Town Clerk, Sharon Harry-Munroe; acting City Treasurer, John Douglas; the Clerk of Markets, Sherlock Lovell, among others over the bag of cash belonging to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) that was found inside a vehicle assigned to Chief Constable, Andrew Foo.

Chief Constable Andrew Foo

Other City Hall officials to be disciplined include a sergeant of the City Constabulary who was the last person to handle the bag before it was discovered, and revenue collection clerks, who are said to have handed the money over to the sergeant involved.

According to reports, the money was supposed to have been deposited at a bank on June 20, 2019, by the Escort Unit of the City Constabulary however it was on July 16 that a City constable, who was cleaning the vehicle, discovered the sealed bank deposit bag under the driver’s seat. Following the discovery of the cash, an investigation was launched by the Local Government Commission (LGC). LGC Chairman Mortimer Mingo, on Tuesday confirmed that the report has been completed and sent to the Georgetown Mayor, Ubraj Narine.

“We have just concluded that investigation, and we have dispatched our findings to the mayor,” Mingo informed. “We are asking for a number of persons to be disciplined, eight of them. The town clerk acting, the sergeant, the constable who was driving the vehicle, the revenue collector II, the revenue collector III, the clerk of markets, the money is what they collected from the market, which they put in the bag and was then supposed to be deposited at the bank.”

Mingo said the officials cited will now have to answer to why disciplinary action should not be taken against them. “Since we did the investigation we must now put the charges to the persons and give them a chance to answer, and say why charges should not be laid against them,” Mingo said.

Chairman of the Local Government Commission, Mortimer Mingo

This adds to the continued list of things for which disciplinary action is being advised against the acting Town Clerk. Harry-Munroe was sent on administrative leave beginning last week, pending an investigation into her handling of financial documents requested by the Audit Office for a forensic audit at City Hall. This came in addition to disciplinary action advised against her in recommendations emanating out of a report from a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the operations of City Hall that was held last year.

It was late last month that Mayor Narine revealed that he was informed that the money was being kept in the vehicle, PVV 1405, for quite some time. Narine could not say how much money was in the bag, but noted that the bag contained a ‘lock’ or M&CC seal, which was what confirmed that it belonged to the council.

Actions have not been advised against Foo, for this matter, as he is said to not have been involved in the handling of the money, and the vehicle was being used by the sergeant to transport the money. Foo, however, has other matters pending before the LGC, after disciplinary action was also recommended against him in the CoI report. It was Foo who reported the matter to the acting Town Clerk, Sharon Harry-Munroe, when it was brought to his attention that the money was discovered in the vehicle. The vehicle is one issued by MCC. “What we have found is that basically there was a breach of a number of the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) starting from the revenue collector. There was a sergeant who collected the money bag and put it in his pocket and they went to the bank but they never deposited it in the night deposit bag,” Mingo noted.

“The city treasurer is being disciplined because the bag is coming from his office, he is supposed to know that this bag is missing, he’s supposed to flag that he didn’t see that bag number coming back in, a report is supposed to come on what really happened.”

City Treasurer, John Douglas

Though the sergeant collected the money to deposit, he is not authorised to collect or handle the money. “They provide escort, the sergeant is supposed to escort them to the bank. It should be the revenue collector or clerk [who should be handling the money], but in this case it is the sergeant who collected the money bag, given it by the clerk, and he decided to pick it up and put it inside his pocket and he didn’t deposit it. This money after a couple weeks was suddenly found under the seat in the vehicle that is being used by the Chief Constable,” Mingo explained.

The explanation of why the sergeant did not deposit the money, or return it after not being able to deposit it remains what sketchy. “They are claiming the bag may have fallen out in the vehicle. But there are a number of stories. When it was finally brought to the open and reported to the Chief Constable, the chief constable immediately reported it to the town clerk. The town clerk did not report it to the mayor immediately, but the chief constable out of an abundance of caution reported it to the mayor, that’s how the mayor knew. The mayor then asked the town clerk if she knew,” Mingo explained.

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