GPO audit report reveals inadequate/unsanitary conditions, citizenship granted without meeting full requirements

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The forensic audit into the Guyana Passport Office which was published on April 27, 2016, states “the present physical facilities at the Passport Office in Camp Street are below the required sanitary standard-(washrooms and seating) are inadequate both for the public and immigration officers attending to the public.”

It noted that with the establishment of the Department of Citizenship, all of its divisions and administrative personnel should be centrally located in one building, or a combination of buildings in one compound, to ensure good communication and easy access to key players.

It was highlighted that all applications for citizen passports are received and processed centrally at the Passport Office in Camp Street, “which is a necessary inconvenience for the public”, according to the report. In the past, several persons from outlying areas have complained about the process which requires them to travel to Georgetown to utilize the services.

Putting systems in place for applications and verifications to be carried out at the regional centers, the report noted “may be take many years to materialize as it requires an evaluation of all the implicit risks/hazards”. However, in the medium term, it envisaged that all applications for passports can originate at the regional centers, where an initial verification process can take place by immigration officers assigned to the regions for interview of applicants, and ensure that all documents are in order.

The report further recommended a revised organizational structure and separation of duties between the Police and Passport/Immigration Officers.

The revised structure should “provide for the Minister responsible, in charge as the head of this ministerial organization, followed by the Permanent Secretary as the chief accounting officer. The Head of Citizenship Immigration and Passport services would be next, and be responsible to the Minister, for the functions provided by these divisions as previously outlined. In the past, the position of Chief Immigration Officer was held by the Commissioner of Police. This will require change as a result of the establishment of the Department of Citizenship and the separation of functions. One suggestion (and it seems logical under the new structure) is that the Head of Citizenship Immigration and Passport services could fill that role”.

Under separation of duties, it was recommended that “consideration… be given in due course to separate the duties with employees of the Department of Citizenship being full time immigration and passport officers and not policemen/women seconded to passport office or airports/seaports”. Police personnel now fill the role of immigration officers at the passport office and points of entry/exit.

As it relates to procedures, the audit team said, while it found no evidence of any malfeasance or any fraudulent activity, it was discovered that there were cases where citizenship was granted to persons without them meeting the full requirements. Questionable cases were outlined where persons did not submit the full requirements before being given a Guyanese National Identification card.
The report details that, between May 1, 2011 and June 30, 2014, Citizenship was granted to 271 applicants from 41 countries. The top seven countries were Cuba (38), China (21), Britain (20), Brazil (19), United States of America (18), St. Lucia (18) and Trinidad (17). It outlined that there were cases where those granted citizenship, would have omitted vital documents such as recommendations, income tax liability statements, NIS compliance and even copies of their birth certificates.
“Applicants from the remaining 34 countries comprised 44%. No one country had obtained an overwhelming amount of citizenships. Cuba, which topped the list, obtained 14% of the approved citizenships, followed by China and Britain with 7% each. Over a 3 year period, approximately 90 citizenships were approved each year”, the audit report outlined.

The report recommended that foreign applicants for citizenship, should be required to write and to pass an examination as is mandatory in other countries. In this regard, it recommends changes to be made to the Guyana Citizenship Act 14 of 1967- Chapter 14:01; the Immigration Act 42 of 1947- Chapter 14:02; and the Aliens/Immigration and Registration Act 37 of 1947- Chapter 14:03.
Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix, following his assumption to office, had expressed his support of a written examination since he believed Guyanese citizenship were being handed out too freely under the former administration. During that time, the Immigration services fell under then Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee.

The report was compiled by Maurice Solomon and Company, Chartered Accountants and Management Consultants at a stated sum of $5.5M.

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