AG: Magistrate’s Court revelations to be dealt with “expeditiously”

AG: Magistrate’s Court revelations to be dealt with “expeditiously”
Attorney General, Carl Bethel.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Attorney General Carl Bethel has assured that recent revelations surrounding missing cheques and altered receipts and payments at the Magistrate’s Court will be dealt with expeditiously and according to law.

An Auditor General’s report tabled in the House of Assembly last week revealed customers’ payments at the Magistrate’s Courts have been substantially reduced, significantly impacting the bank balance on their cards and the amounts to be paid out to the recipient.

The report examines the Office of the Judiciary — Magistrate’s courts accounts department — and covers the period July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018.

Bethel told Eyewitness News in a recent interview that he was informed by the court administration some weeks ago that there was an audit being conducted that would uncover some things that were “highly questionable”.

“Now that the report has been finalized, what happens is it is reviewed by the court administration and they will make a judgement and their own inquiries and if they feel that more is required, they will then refer it onwards for further action,” he said.

“But I have received every assurance from several weeks ago that should there be any adverse findings they will be dealt with expeditiously and dealt with according to law.

“I have every confidence in the court administration that they will follow through and of course I will keep an eye on things from my position.”

Bethel added, “I’m sure that if some reference to the director or public prosecution is required, then that’s what happens sometimes.

“The courts have indicated to me that they are looking at it as a very serious matter that will be fully and thoroughly dealt with.”

Auditor General Terrance Bastian underscored altered payments could lead to “mistrust of the court system” in the report, dated January 9, 2020.

A sample of receipts examined between August 30, 2017, and June 12, 2019, showed 12 instances where a customer’s payment was modified and reduced for a combined total of $1,670.

In many instances, the modification was made hours later, and in one case 20 days later.

The auditor general noted that all discrepancies should be investigated and appropriate disciplinary action applied in instances where there is no adequate justification for the modification made.