May 20, 2022

INFO 10

THE TRUTH IN BLACK AND WHITE

 LM&TC officials call for urgent investigation into theft at Kara Kara toll booth

…..as stats show glaring discrepancies compared to figures collected from GFC

By Abiola Archer and Vanessa Braithwaite-Moore

Kara Kara toll booth

The figures which show the total revenues collected at the Kara Kara toll booth, within a given period, is significantly less than what was collected from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), for logging trucks only. The GFC is just a stone’s throw from the Kara Kara toll booth. The total figures received from the Linden Mayor and Town Council (LM&TC) finance department for all vehicles that paid the toll booth in 2019, 2020 and 2021, were $57M, $46M and $40M respectively while the figures seen from GFC for those same periods collected from logging trucks only are $58M, $53M and $59M respectively.

 In addition to collecting revenues from logging trucks, the toll booth also collects revenues from vehicles transporting fuel and machinery into the region and any other vehicle entering the town for commercial purposes. The financial records for 2018 show that $52 M was collected, however in 2017, the toll booth raked in a whopping $92 M.

 Questions continue to be raised as to why there is a significant decrease in the funds collected. In the most recent statutory meeting, Deputy Mayor Wainwright Bethune,  asked for a comprehensive investigation to be done into the pilfering of funds and for the administration to aggressively pursue those who may be guilty of theft.

 The LM&TC is currently cash strapped and unable to meet the basic needs of the town, hence all revenues garnered are needed to strengthen its capacity to function effectively. With millions of dollars in question, Bethune is alleging that the administration is complacent in its duties, since the issue of pilfering is on the table since 2017 and little to nothing is being done to stop it. This leaves questions on the table as to whether there is apparent collusion between the staff operating the toll booth and those with the responsibility to investigate the matter.   

“They never pay attention to analyse the reports given by the finance department while the LM&TC has not been paying staff effectively, the staff is taking home below minimum wage salaries, their NIS and PAYE benefits are not being paid for, all of the council’s vehicles have mechanical problems, the council is short of staff and they are over $200M in debt,” he expressed.

Town Clerk Orleena Obermuller, in the statuary meeting said, she is open to an investigation being done, to compare revenues and she plans on writing the Local Government Commission to assist with an audit as well as to review the previous camera footages.

While Bethune calls for a more intensive investigation, he said, there should be an increase in surveillance around the work site; these cameras should be monitored, data should be refined and compared daily to Forestry’s daily information, and they should observe daily footages to see what vehicles stopped to pay revenues. The employees on duty must be held responsible for any discrepancy unearthed.

The recommissioning of the toll booth, was to increase revenues for the cash-strapped council so that it can clear debts and sustain itself. Bethune said the toll booth, since 2016, has only marginally increased the revenue of the council and it remains cash-strapped. Currently, revenues garnered, can only meet 20 percent of the council’s expenditure.

In 2016, former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams, recommissioned the toll booth, after it was disbanded in 2013, by former Minister of Local Government, Norman Whittaker 

In 2017, during the Mayorship of Carwyn Holland, mere months after the toll booth was recommissioned, two employees were fired for pilfering funds. This prompted the council to install CCTV cameras, but apparently, the situation remains the same, since records show the continuous decline in revenues.

The council proposed to the administration to relocate the toll booth to  Bamia, where there will be police presence and there are also no other alternative routes to enter the township.