SOCU Head questioned over improper spending
Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit, (SOCU) Sydney James was subjected to questioning over allegations of improper spending at the white-collar crime-fighting institution. This is in light of the ongoing investigation and audit which stemmed after the termination of British adviser, Sam Sittlington.Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan confirmed that an investigation is ongoing into the matter, where he noted that there were allegations of monies not being spent properly and it is now within the jurisdiction of the investigators to understand the spending procedures at SOCU.SOCU Head Sydney James“There are some allegations being made that monies were not spent properly…and of course, you listen to what the auditors of the Police Force has to say on that score and proceed apace with that. The investigators have asked a number of questions of Mr Sydney James and they’re in the process of understanding better, the system that is in place in relation to spending,” Ramjattan said on Friday.Meanwhile, Government is still looking for a replacement for British adviser to SOCU, Sam Sittlington, who was fired earlier this year by the British Government after it was revealed that he had set up a private fraud company in Guyana, which was seen as a conflict of interest with his role as a consultant.According to filed documents seen by this publication, the local company, The Fraud Company (Guyana) Inc, was incorporated under the Companies Act of Guyana on September 25, 2018, with Sittlington as the Director and Orisa Branche as the Secretary. Both signed consenting forms to the positions last August.As such, the Public Security Minister on Friday said the possibility of receiving an “alternate person” is still uncertain.“Having terminated Sam, it necessarily means either we’re going to get the alternate person or not. I’m going to endeavour to make that happen.”Guyana Times understands that the British High Commission in Guyana was unaware of Sittlington’s decision to establish a business locally and it was after this revelation that the UK Government fired the Ireland-based fraud expert.Sittlington had revealed that SOCU has not been operating in a manner in which it should and that there are instances of improper spending.The parliamentary opposition has maintained that SOCU, which was set up to fight money laundering and other white-collar crimes, has become a political unit under the APNU/AFC regime.The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had said that Sittlington was going beyond his advisory role and taking on executive functions, pointing out that he was going on operations such as raids and arrests.SOCU was also under scrutiny after its Deputy Director, Sheronie James, resigned after a local Magistrate disqualified her as an expert witness based on her lack of qualifications.Ramjattan said James was recommended by senior officials after she would have indicated her qualifications, which the Ministry thought was genuine. However, he maintained that in the event of such misrepresentation, his Ministry would not hire the individual.“We were told that she has these qualifications and when she was asked to provide the certain certificates, it was not produced…It was some senior people that recommended her…If you say that you’re of a certain quality and it turns out you are not of that quality or qualification, you’re not going to get employment, not under me,” said Ramjattan.