Nobody to be punished for $30,000 gaffe

Saturday November 02, 2019 Written by Published in Politics

In the hope of ensuring it never happens again, MPs are investigating how a teacher was able to keep collecting $30,000 in pay after he was sacked.

 

Sri Lankan national Tyronne Weerasinghe, 54, was sentenced to three and half years’ imprisonment in April this year after he was found guilty of 59 charges of theft by conversion.

The Public Accounts Committee met with the Education Ministry’s human resource manager Terry Utanga this week. The committee will also talk to staff of other government entities involved in this case.

Weerasinghe, who taught in Rarotonga and the outer islands, withdrew cash totalling $30,700 over the course of two years. He took it from the bank in 59 small withdrawals. It had been credited to his account as a result of some error or action from a government agency.

Committee chairman Tingika Elikana said the committee was looking at ways such incidents could be avoided in the future.

“The focus of the Public Accounts Committee in these two days was to look at the proofs, how was it possible for person who was terminated in 2015 to collect salary until 2017,” Elikana said.

“The good thing about this is, we are not here to punish anybody or point fingers.

“We are here to look at the processes, to look at policies and make sure that this kind of events does not occur in the public service.”

Elikana said while the events that triggered the investigation were directly linked to Education Ministry, there were other government entities that they would be talking to regarding the matter.

“As you know there is a foreign national that was convicted so we need to look at immigration policy.

“We have to also look at the Public Service Commission policy regarding foreign employees. We will also look into Ministry of Finance and Economic Management who are the people responsible for the payroll.”

Elikana highlighted the concerns in terms of the efficiencies in using public funds.

“We will in the future look at the ministries, on more so, the practice of having to carry forward funds,” he said.

“This raises a couple of issues, either it’s a capacity issue or it’s a resource issue. But if you carry forward money, the obvious conclusion is it’s not a resource issue and it must be capacity issue. We will look into those issues.”

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