Deeds Registry staff threatened by HR
– ordered to stop reporting to RegistrarEmployees of the Deeds Registry were threatened with disciplinary actions if they continue to report to Deeds Registrar, Azeena Baksh.According to a memo seen by this publication, which was released by a whistleblower, the head of the Human Resources Department at the Deeds and Commercial Registry instructed staff to stop reporting to Baksh and to report to the Deputy Registrar, Zana Frank instead.Azeena Baksh and Attorney General Basil WilliamsThe memo refers to a meeting held with Attorney General Basil Williams, where it was “further directed that Ms Azeena Baksh should not be signing off on any official documents for or on behalf of Deeds and Commercial Registry Authority. These documents must be signed off by Ms Zanna Frank.”The memo goes on to threaten disciplinary action against staffers who do not follow the directive. The memo also refers to Frank as the acting Registrar. It adds that it was at the meeting with the Attorney General that a decision was taken to send Baksh on administrative leave.However, Baksh is reported to be on medical leave due to complications from ill health. There are reports that in addition to the directive, the locks to Baksh’s office were changed to prevent her gaining access when she returns from leave.But there are questions from whence the Legal Affairs Ministry would have gained the authority to issue directives against Baksh. Article 199 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana states that “the power to make appointments to the offices to which this article applies and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices shall vest in the Judicial Service Commission.”In Article 199 (3) of the constitution, the offices of the Registrar and Deputy Registrar of Deeds are cited as examples of offices which fall under the authority of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). It is a status the JSC has had to remind Attorney General Williams of, by way of correspondence.In a strongly worded letter to Legal Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary Delma Nedd and copied to Williams, the JSC informed them of having received correspondence from Baksh that she was directed to go on administrative leave.In the letter, dated April 24, the JSC reminded them that according to Article 199 (1) and 199 (3), the power over the Registrar of Deeds lies with the Commission. In this regard, the JSC requested a report on the matter to be produced and sent to it for deliberation.Earlier this year, Williams had announced that a probe had been launched into alleged actions of financial improprieties committed by acting Registrar of Deeds Azeena Baksh, after calls upon his Legal Affairs Ministry to do so from staff.It was alleged that Baksh unlawfully paid herself a higher salary than was approved by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). These payments reportedly started in 2014 and continued up to the present, totalling almost $4.5 million.Additionally, it was claimed that the Deeds Registrar also waived some $7 million of revenue owed to the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority (DCRA). The request was allegedly made by an attorney who owed some $8.5 million, but only paid the Authority $1.5 million.However, Baksh has refuted both of these allegations.Also commenting on the issue, former Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, under whose tenure Baksh was appointed, explained that whatever remuneration package the Deeds Registrar was enjoying came out of consultations with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) prior to her, along with other staff members, transferring to the DCRA.Rather, Nandlall had said that Baksh was being targeted as a victim of “political and sexist vengeance”.Baksh is the daughter of former junior Agriculture Minister, Ali Baksh.