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The unduly long periods taken by the Investigative Agencies to inquire into complaints of irregularities against State Agencies came up at the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament meeting held on Wednesday. Members seated on the opposition were visibly upset that there has hardly been any progress in the different cases and the agencies concerned have failed to submit any report on them either. Some members suggested that it may be advisable to summon the heads of these agencies to the PAAC to find out where things currently stand.
The National Insurance Fund Fraud a Case in Point
A striking example cited of the inexplicable delay in investigations is that of the alleged $600 million fraud at the National Insurance Fund. It is a case as old as a year and a half and the agency entrusted with the task of uncovering the facts behind the fraud is the Financial Investigations Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance. Collette Roberts-Risden, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security was present at the PAAC meeting and confirmed that the case was handed over to the FID as early as in January last year. But she said the investigation is still ongoing. This information seemed only to further agitate the members. The PAAC Chairman, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, himself lost his cool and remarked that those responsible in these agencies be called to the PAAC and questioned whether they believe they are competent enough to conduct the investigations or not. He said that if there are any other constraints like the lack of resources, etc., then that also should be ascertained.
The Permanent Secretary did offer a very thin explanation on the NIF case saying that there may have been procedural lapses or breaches in the way the investment decisions were handled at that juncture in the NIF.
There are Other Matters Under Investigation
Apart from the aforementioned NIF case, there are many other high-profile cases involving public sector entities, including, Petrojam, National Energy Solutions Limited, The Manchester Municipal Corporation, and many more. There is a case against the Education Ministry itself and is being probed by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency. In almost all these cases, the agencies entrusted with making the inquiry and submitting their report, seem to be dragging the matters on for far too long and not concluding them.
The issue may have to be escalated to the higher levels in the government for the PAAC to get a more effective response to their concerns.