Department of Education still hasn’t recovered payments for fuel stolen by ex-worker – PAC hears

Despite a court order, the Department for Education has yet to recover the money to cover the cost of fuel stolen by a former employee, according to Permanent Secretary Alfred King.

King made the disclosure to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) when reviewing findings of fraud in the Auditor General’s reports for 2017 and 2018.

According to King, while former employee Mark Samuels of 276 South Ruimveldt, George-town was convicted on charges of fraudulently obtaining just over $1 million in diesel from GuyOil and that he was ordered to repay the sum, no payment has been made since the case was concluded in 2020.

King explained that the department will have to report to the court. He said efforts by the department to contact Samuels were unsuccessful.

He informed the PAC that under the court order, the department was to meet with Samuels and work out a reasonable repayment plan. However, King explained that this was never done because they were unable to make contact with the man.

According to the prosecution, between December 12, 2017 and January 7, 2018, in Georgetown, with intent to defraud, Samuels obtained $1,054,789 in diesel from GuyOil on Regent Street by presenting a check made out to Clyde Fowler, knowing that it was falsified. .

During questioning, it was revealed by Auditor General Deodat Sharma that the then Chief Accountant of the Ministry of Education should have been able to identify the transgressions. With a monthly check between GuyOil and the ministry, Sharma said, the ministry should have been able to detect wrongdoing immediately.

However, King explained that at the time of the audit, the department had already conducted a preliminary investigation through its internal audit department. He said that all findings of this investigation were forwarded to the Office of the Auditor General and that the police were then called to carry out a criminal investigation based on these findings.

He also told PAC that since the findings, system changes have been implemented to prevent such events from happening again.

The Auditor General’s 2017 report said six vehicles not registered as Department of Education property were used to lift 4,351 liters of diesel worth $788,773 from GUYOIL’s Regent Street location in December 2017 thirteen times. “This indicated that, on average, more than one 45-gallon drum was lifted on each occasion. We could not determine the basis on which such quantities of fuel were transported, and whether it was in the public interest,” the report said.

King explained yesterday that the department was unable to establish to whom all the vehicles were registered because some had fake number plates, making it difficult to track owners.

From his explanation after a reading of the police report, it was suggested that the fuel slips allowing an officer to obtain fuel from GuyOil had been stolen and fraudulently signed.

One of the six vehicles was registered in the name of the accused’s father, the PAC learned. The resulting fuel was taken to the Demerara Ice Company, where it was purchased from Samuels.

Businesswoman Lillian Akeung was also charged in 2018 with obtaining the fuel.

It was alleged that between December 12, 2017 and January 7, 2018, in Georgetown, Akeung received buckets of diesel, worth $427,677, from Samuels, knowing that they had been stolen or obtained illegally. of the Ministry of Education.

King went on to say that they rely on the police who have the skill and expertise that his department does not have to conduct the necessary investigations.

He added that there was no recommendation to sue another person to recover the lost money.