Supreme Court Registry probe: Interim Report ready By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
June 4, 2002

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THE first Interim Report from the joint-team conducting a probe into allegations of widespread corruption and financial impropriety at the Supreme Court Registry reveals that there are, indeed, financial impropriety and corruption at the agency. There is also a significant deficiency in its human resources, a top Government official announced last week.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said that the Interim Report also revealed “widespread resistance to change”, specifically changes in the working habits and the practices of Government employees in that sector.

The Report also reveals problems with revenue collection, particularly the anticipated levels of revenue collection from the various Magisterial Districts, Luncheon said at his post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the President last week.

Additionally, Luncheon said, the report identified significant human resources deficiencies and the consequences of those deficiencies in the Magisterial Districts.

In January this year, Luncheon had announced that joint teams, including CID officers, were to be deployed at the Supreme Court and Deeds Registries to probe allegations of widespread corruption. He said Cabinet on January 24 this year endorsed recommendations from a high-level crisis management meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat on January 21. The recommendations included setting up mechanisms to stem the tide of corruption and enhance the efficiency of the two agencies.

Luncheon had said, too, that representatives from the Auditor General’s Department, the Accountant General’s Department and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police Force would be working in collaboration to investigate allegations of corruption at the two agencies.

At his regular news conference last week, the Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS) told reporters that Cabinet had been presented with an Interim Report by the `crisis management team’ at the Supreme Court Registry.

He said that with regard to the Report’s first category of findings -- widespread resistance to change - “the Supreme Court crisis management committee’s policy guidelines and circulars were still too often being ignored and financial practices pending themselves to corruption were made much easier as a consequence”.

He said, too, that the regular and daily examinations of revenue collection in the various Magisterial Districts paint a picture of under- collection.

“There are (and) there have been, inexplicable contractions in the otherwise busy Magisterial Districts when compared to previous (revenue) collections,” Luncheon disclosed.

According to him, “the efforts of the administration to collect evidence to support its contention of collusion in the avoidance and the improper collection of revenue have so far been frustrated by the less than full support, cooperation and compliance of the staff in many of the (Magisterial) Districts”.

With regard to the human resources deficiency, Luncheon said the Public Service Management is working with the authority in the Supreme Court to initiate correction to the human resources establishment in the Registry and provide much more support for at least the protection of revenue in the Magisterial Districts.

Luncheon said, too, that the issue of the loss of bail money is “extremely pervasive”.

“I think our records, and this is only the tip of the iceberg…reveal claimants from all of the Regions, from almost every Magisterial District, where various frauds have been perpetrated on these unwitting Guyanese appearing before the Courts,” he said.

“I don’t believe that there is right now, a specific response in dealing with refunds because we are not even aware of the magnitude of the losses suffered and the sums that would have to be replaced by Central Government once the losses have been documented and verified,” he pointed out.

According to him, the Government’s efforts are `two-fold’.

“One is bringing the earliest possible cessation to this outright corrupt and impermissible practice, and then of course, to pursue with the greatest diligence, the prosecution of all of the offenders, who have been identified and have been brought to the attention of the Courts.”

This exercise that is being done, he said, has had a feasibility on the basis of some work in three Courts and three different Magisterial Districts, and he would want to believe that as time progresses, a hundred per cent audit of those who suffered from the corrupt practice would provide a feel for what sums of money would need to be refunded.

“Such sums of money represent revenue that the Government lost during the years of these practices,” he said.

“We have a two-fold objective; first to bring the quickest and the most comprehensive end to this practice and second to prosecute those who are involved and those who are brought to justice,” he stated.

Luncheon said coming out of those two objectives, the Government should be able to comprehensively come up with figures and numbers as to the financial impact that the administration faces from the loss of revenue and that would be the sum, which the Guyanese bail-payers would expect to be refunded.

He, however, noted that the administration has made, in a few instances, some advance responses and payments to those affected.

One such category of payment is for the `bastardy payments’. “We have had to…allow the mothers of the children who have sought and received child support through the instrumentality of the Courts, to collect their money otherwise, (since) those child support sums disappeared mysteriously from the bank account,” he said.

“So, in some instances, the administration had to move even in the absence of the full comprehension and magnitude of the losses have been submitted,” he added.