Fraud In Labour Ministry
The Guyana Police Force has been called in to probe financial transactions conducted by former Chief Cooperative Officer Kareem Abdul-Jabar and other key officials in the cooperative movement.
This is according to Labour Minister Dr Nanda Gopaul.
During an interview with Guyana Times on Monday, the labour minister explained that the recent discovery of fraudulent activities at the ministry's Co-op Department has forced it to take legal action to complement administrative action already taken.
According to Dr Gopaul, a letter has already been sent to the Guyana Police Force and investigations will soon commence. “We have good reason to call in the police and in fact we have done so.” Gopaul’s comments come even as his ministry is soliciting information from persons who acquired land during the past two years through liquidation sales presided over by the cooperatives department.
The ministry is also advising the public that Abdul-Jabar is no longer the chief cooperative officer in Guyana, owing to complaints of interference. Dr Gopaul explained that “we have information that there is still interference with the work by former employees, so we have placed a notice that they are no longer employed with us.”
However, Abdul-Jabar refuted claims made by the minister, noting that since his service was terminated earlier in the year, he has distanced himself from the cooperative movement. “No, I am out of the business since I learned that I was terminated, I advised people from time to time when they call me but I will even have to stop doing that.”
The former chief co-op officer and his lawyer, along with officials from the ministry and Public Service Commission are slated to return to the High Court on May 7, as Abdul-Jabar seeks to get the court to squash the decision to terminate his service.
Abdul-Jabar landed in hot water after playing an integral role in the sale of the Lamaha Gardens playground to the tune of $25 million in January. His service was terminated on the grounds that the transaction breached the laws governing cooperatives in Guyana.
Abdul-Jabar had allegedly aided in the sale of the land without consulting the owner, the Guyana Public Service Housing Cooperative, arguing that there were less than seven members of the association. However, an investigation conducted by the ministry revealed that there are approximately 15 members with valid titles listed on the membership of the association.
Additionally, the bidding process for the plot of land was flawed, since the auction, which took place in November 2012, was apparently done in secret. The opening of a new bank account to which the $25 million was transferred was also unauthorised and constituted a grave infringement of the rules governing cooperatives.
However, Abdul-Jabar continues to maintain his innocence. Since the allegations have been leveled against him, the former co operative office has turned to the courts for recourse. He has since filed two injunctions to quash his suspension and termination respectively.
He is being represented by Attorney Roysdale Forde, while the government is being represented by State Counsel Prathima Kissoon.
Currently acting as the Chief Cooperative Officer is Carol Persaud, as the Labour Ministry awaits approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC) for a permanent officer to be installed.
According to the subject minister, someone has already been identified for the position. The ministry is also awaiting the approval for the installation of six additional employees.
(Guyana-cricket editor's note: Kareem Abdul-Jabar and the Ministry of Labour were central in the ministry's refusal to approve Guyana Cricket Board financial reports in 2010 - 2011, which led to GCB elections being postponed several times. This contributed significantly to bad publicity for the Guyana Cricket Board.)