Shady dealings - Public-sector workers under scrutiny for questionable assets, false declarations

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Several public-sector employees are now under investigation for declaring assets which the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption believes are not supported by their income and for making false statements in their statutory declarations to hide assets.

The revelation came from a senior official at the commission who told The Gleaner yesterday, "We have discovered that assets are not being declared."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that several files have already been sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for a ruling.

"We are investigating a few people across the board," said the official, pointing out that the probe spans several categories of workers.

Under the Corruption (Prevention) Act 2000, more than 25,000 public-sector employees and officials are required to make annual declarations of their assets and business interests.


Those who fail to provide a satisfactory explanation where their declared assets are not supported by their income and/or knowingly make a false statement on their statutory declaration can be prosecuted for illicit enrichment.

In the last two years, the commission has successfully prosecuted four public officers. Among them was a former customs officer who had an annual salary of just under $1 million but filed declarations between 2003 to 2007 "showing growth in assets in excess of $12 million".

"This included investments of more than $7 million in unregulated investment schemes," the commission said, noting that the officer was unable to "satisfactorily" explain the increase in wealth.

The officer, who subsequently pleaded guilty, was fined $700,000 for one count of illicit enrichment and $100,000 each for three counts of making a false statement on a declaration.

Two former assistant parish managers with the National Works Agency (NWA) were also among those prosecuted by the commission.

They were charged after the commission discovered that they had failed to declare their interest in a company that "performed contractual duties with the NWA" between 2003 and 2007. Among the duties of the assistant parish manager at the time, the commission noted, was the awarding of small contracts and to certify the work done by contractors.

Both men later reversed their not-guilty pleas and were fined $50,000 on each of the six counts.

But with just two investigators at its disposal, the official said it is becoming increasingly difficult for the commission to go after persons who are not declaring their assets as well as those making false statements to conceal their wealth.

"It is a constraint because we can't do the kinds of cases that we would like to do," he emphasized.

According to the official, investigations are only triggered when information in a statutory declaration is matched against a set of criteria established by the commission.

"When we get information, we put it into a software which raises red flags based on the criteria we have established," he explained.

"We then have a financial analyst look at it and create a file that is referred to us for further investigations," he added.

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