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The family of former Guyanese Ambassador, Dr. Odeen Ishmael has refuted claims that the Diplomat owed the State of Guyana millions for advances utilized during his employ.
Dr. Ishmael’s family took issue with an iNews Guyana article headlined “Diplomat dies owing State millions, Govt urged to recover monies” and published on Monday, January 18, 2021 following a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which examined the Auditor General’s (AGs) 2016 report on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
One of the issues considered was 26 outstanding advances worth GYD $11.549M which was reduced to 10 outstanding advances overtime, amounting to US$14,301 granted to the former diplomat.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elisabeth Harper disclosed that the outstanding amount was not accounted for due to the absence of receipts.
“It’s an exercise that we have really exhausted because we have tried all the avenues to get the receipts and it’s not that the person [Dr. Ishmael] did not travel, because we have reports of the meetings that they attended, so in every instance, there was travel that was authorized by Cabinet [but the accounting is not available],” she told the PAC.
The Permanent Secretary told the PAC of efforts to have the sum written-off.
In response, Minister of Public Works and PAC Member, Juan Edghill suggested that the outstanding sum could and should still be acquired although Dr. Ishmael has died.
“If someone is deceased, your estate is still available, especially if that person was on a pensionable establishment. There is a way that could be recovered without writing it off and I think advice from the Accountant General’s Office [is necessary] because both the GRA would have to provide a statement that you’re free from indebtedness in terms of taxation. So, before you go to writing off, there is a way to recover monies owed by a public officer even after their demise,” Edghill said.
However, Dr. Ishmael’s family contends that the iNews article conveys that Dr. Ishmael owes the State money.
“Despite the false headline stating that Dr. Ishmael owed these monies when he died, no one has made an allegation that these advances were unaccounted for by Dr. Ishmael’s work-related travel or that Dr. Ishmael otherwise failed to justify these advanced monies with supporting travel documentation and receipts. In fact, based on our knowledge of Dr. Ishmael’s practices, he was meticulous about supporting his work travel expenses with documentation required by the Ministry. As such, we would expect that all such supporting documentation would be in the records of the Guyana Embassy in Kuwait or Caracas, if not within the records of the Ministry itself,” the statement issued by the Ishamel family said.
Furthermore, the family noted that Dr. Ishmael retired in 2014 while the article focuses on the 2016 Auditor General Report.
“No one from the Government of Guyana has contacted the family about this issue or otherwise made them aware of this issue prior to the publication of the iNews Guyana article today,” the statement read.
The family stated that Dr. Ishmael served Guyana loyally from 1993 through 2014, when he retired due to his failing health. They view, as an “affront to his service to the country”, the article which suggests impropriety by the late Ambassador.
The Guyanese Diplomat died in January 2019 in the United States (U.S.) at the age of 70. He was decorated with the Cacique’s Crown of Honor (CCH) and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award for International Service.