One of two public servants who was suspended following reports of millions of dollars missing from the Division of Tourism, is expected to appear before a tribunal while the other has been cleared of any wrongdoing and has returned to work.
So said Tobago House of Assembly’s Chief Administrator Raye Sandy, responding to a query from Newsday Tobago about the status of the investigations into funds intended as payment to Virgin Atlantic for flight arrangements on the UK/Tobago route, and for other providers of tourism services to the Division, but which was allegedly wired to wrong bank accounts.
“The Public Service Commission has cleared one of the public servant of all the allegations, so she was immediately called back out to work, she returned on June 1 as she didn’t have any questions to answer.
“The other public servant, one charge was proffered against her, so she has a charge to answer. There would be a tribunal, it is something like a Public Service court, and she would appear before them, but that has not started as yet,” Sandy said.
In October last year, Minority Assemblyman for Parlatuvier/ L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, Farley Augustinem said three separate sums of money destined for suppliers of tourism services, and to be paid through the at the Division, were said to have been wired to wrong bank accounts.
Augustine said the $8.8 million went missing in July 2017, while US$6,500, destined for a Miami-based consulting firm doing work for the Division, was rerouted to a bank account in the United Kingdom, and that a further $1.6 million, which he said was intended for agents in Miami for the current cruise ship season, also went missing.
Augustine’s information was subsequently confirmed by Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles at a post Executive Council media briefing on November 29.
Charles said four persons from the Tourism Division – two public servants and two contracted employees – had been suspended and Fraud Squad detectives called in to investigate the matter.
As regards the status of the investigation by the Fraud Squad and attempts at recovery of the funds, Sandy said:
“The Fraud Squad investigations are ongoing, they would report directly to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) if anything is found, but at this time I know that they are continuing their investigations.”
Sandy said a third investigation by the Audit Committee of the Ministry of Finance - to examine the accounting practices at the Division – have been concluded but to date, he has not received ta report. He said a report from this Committee would be forwarded directly to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, who would then share it with him.
Attempts tocontact Head of the Fraud Squad, Senior Superintendent Totaram Dookhie, by telephone were unsuccessful.