Three witnesses testified today for the Senate Select Committee’s investigation into irregularities at the Visa, Nationality and Passport sections of the Immigration Department as listed in the Auditor General’s special audit. They were former Officer in Charge of the Visa Section, Edgar Cano; former Finance Officer Teresita Castellanos and former Chief Executive Officer, Candelaria Saldivar-Morter.

As the senate hearings enter its ninth week of hearings, the five-member Senate Committee has begun to look deeper into the on goings at the Department for the periods covered by the audit: 2011 and 2013. Today, the Committee got confirmation of the general allegations made by the Auditor General when the former CEO, in her testimony, admitted that they knew that there were many discrepancies taking place.

candyCandelaria Saldivar - Former CEO, Ministry of Immigration

“When we took over the ministry and the department of Immigration we were aware that there were irregularities taking place at the Immigration department and so we took some steps to try and correct some of them, some events during the time when we were looking at changes within the department to effect those changes within the department some event took place with speed up some areas but on the longer run we had a plan for a complete restructuring and reform of the department and I think that is one of the report that the Auditor General was concerned that she did not get a copy of .”

Senator Mark Lizarraga – Senate Select Committee Member

“Is that the Special Exercise that took place?”

Candelaria Saldivar - Former CEO, Ministry of Immigration

“Yes, I think that is what she was talking about.”

Senator Mark Lizarraga – Senate Select Committee Member

“But you recognized this as the CEO what did you do besides making the recommendations to Cabinet, the buck stops with you almost, you are responsible for that ministry?”

Candelaria Saldivar - Former CEO, Ministry of Immigration

“Like I said it is systematic and so we had to put in place somethings in place that would solve that issue; we have the financial regulations, we have the legislations how do you force officers to comply it has to be through discipline because it is not that it is not there what you are supposed to do, everything is there what you are supposed to do it is how do you get them to comply and if they don’t comply there is mechanism in the Public Service within Administration that you get these people to comply and that is by taking their to the Public Service Commission and put them up for disciplinary action it is not that there is nothing for these officers to work with, there were procedural manuals, there is the public service regulations, there is the financial orders , the audit and reform act all f these things are there, it is to get them to comply.”

While compliance was one thing, keeping them accountable was another. One of the biggest scandals in recent times and which was reviewed in the special audit, was the Won Hong Kim/Elvin Penner nationality and passport fraud. While the Department had carried out its own investigation and discovered that three immigration officers did wrong, when it came to them facing reprimand through the system, the Department dropped the ball.

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