Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace says that the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate in New York has been overcharging Vincentians for renewing passports.
Eustace, citing a report, which he did not identify, said that between US$165 and US$275 were being collected, even as the authorised amount was US$150.
Speaking on his weekly radio programme on Monday, Eustace said the report is for the period August 2011 to August 2013, and added that he will comment further when he has had time to study the report further.
Eustace comments come in the wake of the recall and dismissal last month of this country’s deputy consular general in New York, Edson Augustus.
Soon after news of the recall broke, a source told I-Witness News that Augustus was recalled because of his handling of the issuing of some Vincentian passports.
However, the government has said that the former diplomat was recalled because he took money from illegal immigrants in the United States, promising to help them to source Green Cards.
Eustace quoted the report as saying, “The consulate office has for a number of years been collecting fees of US$165 and up to US$275 for the replacement of passports instead of the regulated fee of US$150.”
“So, in one case, they are charging US$15 more, and, in the other case they are charging US$125 more…” the former prime minister and minister of finance commented.
“No authority was seen for the collection of these fees,” he further quoted the report as saying.
“When I understand that nobody did anything wrong, when I hear that and no legal action is being proposed, I raise that question, and I am going to raise some more. But this is a very serious, serious matter and this is apart from any other actions which were being taken, some of which I now have in a report,” Eustace said.
The government has said that the action that resulted in Augustus’ recall is not a violation of any Vincentian law.
“I have said that our tampering of issues relating to passport are not in the best interest of the people of this country. It will cause the tightening of the supervision of our mission, or the examination, or tightening people’s views of our mission’s performance, which could lead to further difficulty for our people,” Eustace said.
“We don’t seem to be taking this matter seriously at all. Everything is so loose and we are expected to accept that. I think … we need to look again; … we need to examine and make recommendation for change in our consulate’s performance in various parts of the world,” Eustace said.