KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The theft of EC$63,744 from the International Airport Development Company (IADC), reportedly by two employees, is not expected to negatively affect donations to the project.
“I don’t think that potential investors are going to say … because there has been an incident of misappropriation of resources that they are not going to give money, whether they are Vincentians who are going to give,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said at a media briefing on Monday.
Police are investigating a fraud ring at the IADC, where two junior employees colluded to defraud the company of the monies by billing for more food than was delivered to the company, according to IADC Communication Officer Jennifer Richardson-Herbert.
Gonsalves said that contributors to the EC$652 million Argyle International Airport are interested in knowing that there are “systems in place to make sure that anybody who does anything that they get caught. And this is what we have seen here.”
He said he was “disappointed” with the development. “Anytime anybody goes to steal any government resources, I am very disappointed. And, in this particular case, it is the airport. And I know the Airport Company, they have the responsibility to address this question and they are addressing it.”
Gonsalves said that the company has good management, including its board of directors and chief executive officer, Dr. Rudy Matthias.
“I have been advised that the persons who are alleged to have been involved in this incident that they have indicated their involvement. I wouldn’t say confession, because, as a lawyer, I know that is a particular term of art,” he said.
Gonsalves, however, said he was “not privy to what the police investigators have obtained from the individuals concerned.
“We will see where it goes from here. But we are on course. We are doing quite well at the airport; you see what is taking place. While all of this is going on, I am still in search of funds to raise monies.”
He said that persons who steal from the state would get caught, noting the recent development that the Income Tax Department where an employee was charged with multiple counts of stealing from the department.
When such incidents occur, Gonsalves said, the systems must be re-examined to determine what reforms are needed to close up any loopholes.
“The likelihood of getting caught on these things is very, very high. But at the same time, people are doing a lot of good work out there and I know persons at the International Airport project they are so disappointed and I am very much so, too,” Gonsalves said.