By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
SOME employees of the Ministry of Education have been questioned at the Central Detective Unit this week and told they were “under arrest” as police investigate alleged misappropriation of funds.
Police are investigating a Department of Education scheme that defrauded the government of nearly $450,000 by manipulating a system of stipends and honoraria. The scheme was exposed by Auditor General Terrance Bastian in a September 12, 2018 report revealed by The Tribune in January.
The Tribune reported last month that the Ministry of Public Service issued show cause letters to ten people implicated in the scheme, requiring the high level employees to defend themselves against allegations in order to avoid termination.
Police have simultaneously been investigating the matter to determine if criminal charges are warranted. The manner in which that investigation has been handled sparked anxiety among staff at the Ministry of Education this week.
A ministry source said Human Resources officials told employees everyone who has received a stipend, overtime pay or honorarium since 2012 could be questioned by police as part of a fact finding mission. Although human resources portrayed the meeting to staff as an innocuous discussion to help officers understand the payment system, the source said people interviewed claim that they have been told by officers that they are, in fact, under arrest. Investigators, this newspaper was told, then quickly assured staff that they face no real legal jeopardy but must be formally arrested so their testimony can be admissible in a trial. The questioning has centred around basic information concerning the stipends or overtime pay employees have received and the people questioned are not believed to be targets of the investigation.
The Tribune yesterday spoke to a ministry employee who has received overtime pay and has sought legal advice after hearing the experience of others.
“Staff felt duped by Human Resources,” the employee, who has not yet been interviewed by police, said. “It’s caused a big hullabaloo and it’s all anybody is talking about. You mean to tell me the only way they could secure testimony is to say we under arrest? Everyone is saying lawyer up and people are distraught.”
Yesterday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle, who previously headed the police Anti-Corruption Unit, declined to discuss details about the questioning of staff.
He said: “The police are investigating the alleged misappropriation of funds within the Ministry of Education. I have not heard from no one who has complained to me about it and I have not seen anything about it. I know none of the persons who were spoken to and I have not had any conversation with them. I have spoken to the investigating officers and we will look into it and find an amicable way in which to proceed with this investigation.”
Deputy Commissioner Rolle noted the law allows police to question anyone while conducting an investigation.
The scheme officials are investigating resulted in taxpayers being defrauded of $448,230. There was no accompanying formal approval from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Public Service for the alleged fraudulent payments. In one instance, an assistant accountant received 43 honoraria payments of $125,505 in 44 months while another accountant received $61,113 in 32 instalments in 20 months. In April, the Office of the Attorney General recommended that 10 people face disciplinary action in connection with the fraud.
tell_it_like_it_is 3 years, 9 months ago
So tell me this. How is it that teachers who sometimes work into the night and on weekends receive no overtime pay. But the Ministry of Education staff at headquarters are getting overtime pay... doing what?
Staying back late gossiping with their friends???? smh
Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 9 months ago
$450,000 is peanuts compared to the mega millions of dollars the unending BPL load shedding is costing our economy and Bahamians. Millions of dollars of business has been lost by local businesses and millions of dollars more have been lost by Bahamians as a result of their appliances and other equipment being fried by BPL. The Minnis-led FNM government has no idea what it should be prioritizing......they are a bunch of incompetent buffoons who remain more focussed on filling their own pockets rather than doing the people's business.
TalRussell 3 years, 9 months ago
If reports be accurate, then only in colony of 700 out islands, cays and inlets - would officials with powers arrest posses balls feels like dozens its comrade populaces ignorance constitution could be played on after being hauled into constabulary's station be duped that the only way crown could secure their testimony is to say we under arrest thieving monies from PopulacesPurse, yes, no ..... Just couldn't make this up .... Isn't this way crown's constabulary operates in banana republics where they shoots at will, arrests, beats up detainees at will ......
geostorm 3 years, 9 months ago
I say, if you did nothing wrong, you have absolutely nothing to fear.
TalRussell 3 years, 9 months ago
Ma comrade Geo, you're talkin utter poppycock, yes, no ... are seriousness such alleged abuse by arresting powers not at all concerning to your own constitutional rights ....
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