January 20, 2021
The family of the late Guyanese ambassador, Dr. Odeen Ishmael, learned on Monday of an article that appeared in iNews Guyana, falsely titled, `Diplomat dies owing State millions, Govt urged to recover monies.’
First and foremost, the headline falsely states that Dr. Odeen Ishmael owed money to the state when he died in 2019. The substance of the article presents no such facts to justify such a sensational allegation in the headline.
Rather, the substance of the article appears to suggest that there was questioning at the Public Accounts Committee concerning the Auditor General’s 2016 report about, “26 advances totaling $11.5 million which were never paid back to the Ministry,” and that while 16 of these advances were cleared, 10 advances remain outstanding in the total of $US14,310. According to the article, these 10 outstanding advances were incurred by the late Ambassador Odeen Ishmael associated with his travels and apparently now, “there is difficulty retrieving supporting documents and receipts.” Despite the false headline stating that Dr. Ishmael owed these monies when he died, no one has made an allegation that these advances were unaccounted for by Dr. Ishmael’s work-related travel or that Dr. Ishmael otherwise failed to justify these advanced monies with supporting travel documentation and receipts. In fact, based on our knowledge of Dr. Ishmael’s practices, he was meticulous about supporting his work travel expenses with documentation required by the Ministry. As such, we would expect that all such supporting documentation would be in the records of the Guyana Embassy in Kuwait or Caracas, if not within the records of the Ministry itself.
Dr. Ishmael served Guyana loyally from 1993 through 2014, when he retired from the foreign service due to his failing health. It is an affront to his service to the country – and an offence to his personal memory – that iNews Guyana would title an article about unreconciled travel receipts in a way that suggests impropriety by the late ambassador.
Notably, Dr. Ishmael retired in 2014 and the article focuses on an Auditor General Report from 2016, two years after his retirement. No one from the Government of Guyana has contacted the family about this issue or otherwise made them aware of this issue prior to the publication of the iNews Guyana article today. Dr. Ishmael served as the Guyana ambassador to the United States, Venezuela, and Kuwait. He was decorated with the Cacique’s Crown of Honour and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award for International Service. He was also recognized by the United States Congress in a joint resolution tribute upon the completion of his diplomatic service in Washington DC.
Safraz W. Ishmael