Arson is not just a problem in the Caribbean, but it is a Caribbean problem – particularly in government financial departments
by Peter Binose
Usually arson in government buildings and Ministries is set or caused to be set by someone in the ruling government party – someone or some group that wants to destroy records, before records destroy them.
You may have noticed it’s always claimed to be an act of terrorism, an act committed by the opposition – by anyone except by government themselves.
Its quite amazing that whenever these fires happen it’s very often in the Ministry of Finance or some accounting department holding financial records. And it’s more than often in countries that are in financial difficulty.
Here are a few incidents that paint a picture…
- 1996, Guyana, Ministry of Public Works and Communications accounts department was destroyed during an audit there.
- 1998, Guyana, Ministry of Finance building and records destroyed in a fire claimed to be arson.
- 1999, Guyana, Ministry of Finance, records destroyed in a fire claimed to be arson.
- 1999, Guyana, Ministry of Education, Finance Department, records destroyed in a fire claimed to be arson.
- May, 2001, Guyana, Ministry of Agriculture, Finance Department, records destroyed in a fire claimed to be arson.
- June, 2001, Guyana, Ministry of Housing, Planning and Finance department, records destroyed in a fire claimed to be arson.
- 1996 to 2009, Guyana, almost every ministry office and their records have been destroyed by arson at some time during this period.
- March 2010, St. Thomas, Lottery Offices destroyed by arson and financial records destroyed, some of the cash in the safe missing.
- June 2011, Ministry of Finance building on fire in Athens, Greece.
A suspicious fire happened in Saint Vincent at the financial complex, that destroyed a huge number of records in filing cabinets. The fire was said to have been caused by a defective fan. How convenient!
In October 2011 there was a fire in Prime Ministers Office building in St. Vincent. The fire broke out on Saturday in the Finance Complex, the building that houses the Office of the Prime Minister.
- Jan 2014, St. Kitts and Nevis, The third arson attack at a government office. The Treasury Department included the destruction of records of the Inland Revenue tax collection, also important Government financial records and computers holding the same records.
It’s the same in industry – when times get financially hard, when incriminating records need to be destroyed, fires are common in the accountants office and stock rooms.
June 2012, Fire at the offices and aircraft hanger of LIAT, financial records and stock lost, including 2 Dash aircraft.
I remember whilst working in London, I came across a corporation in-house accountant that bragged that he was so busy he hadn’t taken a holiday or a day off in 15 years. I insisted that he took a holiday, when he returned he was charged with embezzlement going back at least 7 years, he ended up in prison.
According to the United States Fire Administration, in the United States there were approximately 31,000 fires caused by arson in 2006, resulting in losses of $755 million.
Back to Caribbean Government fraud and arson.
What we should be looking closely at in the Caribbean are Ministers who are afraid to demit office, afraid of the ensuing investigations into finances and impropriety. Those Prime Ministers that cling to power should be a future target for intense investigation – that is if there are any records left to investigate – after all the arson that has become prevalent in Caribbean financial departments.
There may be a danger from those politicians that want to cling to power, because perhaps there has been some cooking of the books, some nasties to hide, a little fraud here, a lot of fraud there. They will stop at nothing, because if they cook the books a little election fraud will come as a second nature. But when it is audit time, anything is better than a holiday at Her Majesty’s pleasure… and so those fans tend to overheat and burst into flames.
All coincidence, I’m sure!