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HOW THE RAILWAY STORES ARE MANAGED., Issue 8005, 6 September 1889
HOW THE RAILWAY STORES ARE MANAGED.
GROSS IRREGULARITIES. UNFORTUNATE SCAPEGOATS. FURTHER ACTION NEEDED. [From Odr Parliamentary Reporter.] WELLINGTON, September 5. The rumors which have lately been cur rent as to serious irregularities in the Railway Stores Department were brought to a bead to-day by the report of the Public Petitions (M td Z) Committee of the House of Representatives upon the petition of George Sample andC. W. Schwartz, of Wellington. Sample stated in his petition that he had been on the permanent staff of the Railway Department for about six years, and that his services have now been dispensed with because he reported certain irregularities committed by the storekeeper at Petone ; that at an inquiry held into the matter he was not allowed an opportunity to cross-examine or rebut any evidence offered by the storekeeper and other witnesses. He therefore prayed for another inquiry into the whole affair, and that, if his charges were substantiated, he should receive compensation or other relief. Schwartz's grievance was that his services were dispensed with in consequence of inquiries he made from an officer of the department into irregular transactions. The Committee reported that after making an exhaustive inquiry they found that the petitioners have no claim against the colony, In discussjng the motion that the reports should lie upon the table, Mr Taylor (a member of the Committee) held that the Committee ought to have gone further and adopted a resolution which he had moved. —"That while the petitioners had no claim against the colony the evidence disclosed such laxity in the administration of the Railway Store Department as to call for serious inquiry." Mr Anderson (another member of the Committee) was of a like opinion, and said it had been shown that there were such irregularities in the department as would not be tolerated in any third rate commercial house in the oolony. Mr Dpncan moved as an amendment " That the petitions be referred to the Government for their consideration." Mr T. Thompson (chairman of the Com- J mittee) said that - grave matters had been i brought before them which were anything but creditable to the management of the Railway Store Department. What (he asked) would the House think of a man in a confidential position who told the Committee that he thought himself justified—and did not think he was breaking rules—if, for several months of the year, he sent to his own home articles for consumption such as tins of kerosene, while hosts of other things wore taken, and that he was perfectly justified in borrowing those articles ! with the intention of replacing them in the stores 1 It was proved that they were replaced, but not until after the matter had been talked about. The men who informed had been dismissed, while the superior officer was retained. If such transactions had occurred in' any private establishment the officer*would have been made to answer in some other place for his behaviour. Mr Fish said that if Mr Thompson s statements Were correct the matter should not be allowed to rest where it stood. If su?h things could be done in Wellington under the noses of the heads of the departments, what might not happen elsewhere. Such a disgraceful state of things had been disclosed as to make it imperative that either the Government or someone else should step in.
Mr Grimmojjj) (another member of the Committee) thought that the inquiries had shown nothing worse than a sort of free-and-easy way of borrowing goods. Mr R. Thompson was of opinion that the statements of the Committee had shown that there had not been simply borrowing, but stealing. It was clear that there was a regular system of theft; and if the offender had been in a lower position in the service, instead of the head of a department, he would have been charged accordingly. Mr T. Thompson said that he had only alluded to one phase of the case, Much more serious transactions had been disci jsed. They had been explained, but to his mind not satisfactorily. Mr Dodson asked what were these other transactions. Were they of this nature : that a sale was made to a mercantile firm in town ; a cheque was paid in due course, and the person who received the cheque ca*he d
it and kept the money for several weeks before entering it in the books of the depart' ment ? Mr T. Thompson : That was so. Mr Izard thought that punishment had fallen on the wrong Bhoulders. The man at the head of the department seemed to have misappropriated— he could use no other term—some of the stores of the colony. Two junior ofGcers failed to report the matter at once ; but that was very natural, seeing that they were under the other man's thumb. Hut nny neglect of duty in that respect was condoned by their subsequent conduct. When they did report the matter an investigation was held, with the result that the men who informed weredischarged, and the man whose conduct was called in question and who misappropriated the goods was retained. The two men ought certainly to have been retained.
The Minister of Works said he would accept the amendment, and would cause an inquiry to be made. The amendment referring the matter to the Government was put and carried.
HOW THE RAILWAY STORES ARE MANAGED., Issue 8005, 6 September 1889
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