Potential fuel theft case probed

Police
have begun a criminal investigation into at least one case where fuel may have
been fraudulently taken from the Cayman Islands government fuel depot on North
Sound Road.

The
probe comes following an internal audit report and a review by Auditor General
Dan Duguay that found the potential for widespread fraud and abuse at the North
Sound fuel depot, which provides petrol for all government-owned vehicles.

Mr.
Duguay’s report identified about 33 per cent, roughly $500,000, worth of fuel
purchases made at the depot between January 2008 and March 2009 that were
initially considered suspicious.

Both
former Department of Vehicle and Emergency Services Director Dale Dacres and
Police Commissioner David Baines took issue with that estimate. However,
neither man denied that some abuse of the government fuel card system had
likely occurred.

Mr.
Baines referenced one case specifically within the Royal Cayman Islands Police
Service that occurred over a lengthy period. He told the Legislative Assembly’s
Public Accounts Committee that the investigation involved some 150 purchases on
one fuel card that appeared to be cause for some concern.

However,
Mr. Baines said he regarded statements in Mr. Duguay’s report about “suspicious
purchases” in 33 per cent of all fuel card purchases between January 2008 and
March 2009 as “insulting” to those departments involved in the audit.

Five
government departments or statutory authorities were reviewed as part of an
internal government audit, which was later expanded upon by Mr. Duguay’s
office. Those agencies included the RCIPS, the Public Works Department, the
National Roads Authority, the Department of Environmental Health, and the Water
Authority.

“The
suggestion here is I’ve got widespread corruption with police stealing
gas…regrettably, that’s what went out from the media,” Mr. Baines said,
apparently referring to comments made on a local talk radio show. 

Mr.
Duguay admitted some instances where government fuel card usage appeared to be
suspicious were explainable. Others, he said, were not.

“The
commissioner brought up this one instance where 60 vehicles were filled up
(during a hurricane warning),” Mr. Duguay said. “I understand that.”

“There
are lots of other times where cars were filled up…outside of hurricane season.”

“There’s
rampant abuse of the system,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Mr.
Dacres said he believed the current fuel monitoring system – call GASBOY –
could work if government departments properly policed and process.

Mr.
Baines said the current system was overly bureaucratic and focused on the
monitoring of vehicles, not on purchases and use of fuel.

Please
see much more on this story in next week’s editions of the Caymanian Compass….

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