One day after $7 million worth of cheques—comprising senior citizens pension and state grants—were stolen from a vault at the Sangre Grande TTPost office, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales has promised to undertake a comprehensive security assessment at all TTPost establishments.
The theft of 1,836 cheques, which is under investigation by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Service and the Sangre Grande police, has led Gonzales to review the internal operations and security protocols at its 31 TTPost offices.
Yesterday, Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox, in response to questions sent by Guardian Media, expressed worry about the value of the cheques stolen.
“The 1,836 cheques amount to approximately $7 million,” Cox wrote.
She confirmed the cheques were stored in a vault.
Pressed if the T&T Police had made a breakthrough with the case, Cox wrote “the TTPS is conducting its investigation.”
On Monday, the Ministry confirmed in a press release that the cheques were stolen during a break-in at the post office and its clients would be adversely affected.
With the assistance of TTPost, the ministry compiled a listing of the stolen cheques which was sent to the Central Bank.
The listing was also placed on the ministry’s social media platforms and the websites of Government ministries.
Stakeholders such as supermarkets and merchants who accept the cheques were also advised to be on the lookout.
Apologising to the almost 2,000 clients who were affected by the inconvenience caused, Cox said efforts were being made to have the stolen cheques replaced.
She said, “The ministry is managing this situation to ensure that the duration of the delay is at minimum. All efforts will be made to make the payments to our clients.”
Gonzales, on the other hand, said he would speak to TTPost’s board “about undertaking a comprehensive security assessment at all TTPost’s establishments.
“I am already discussing the matter with the chairman (Hakeem Ahmad). The Minister of Social Development and I will collaborate on the security measures to be implemented,” Gonzales said.
Describing the matter as worrying, Cox said she was deeply concerned “particularly about the security arrangements which are in place at our post offices. I have since reached out to Minister Gonzales for his intervention in this regard.”
Asked if this was the first time cheques from her ministry had been stolen at this post office, Cox wrote “the ministry cannot say at this time.”
Questioned if any of the stolen cheques had been cashed, Cox wrote, “the ministry is not aware at this time.”
Cox pleaded with clients to sign up at any of the ministry’s offices or commercial banks for the Direct Deposit System where grants are deposited directly into the bank accounts in the name of clients.
This transaction, Cox said, is a safe, reliable, proven and confidential method of receiving payment.