2017 Sessions of Senate Inquiry Begin

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Updated: January 4, 2017

The Senate Special Select Committee met for the first time this year to continue its investigation into the findings of the Auditor General’s Special Visa and other findings Report on the Immigration and Nationality Department for period 2011-2013. The first witness to be called was former Acting Director of Immigration, Maria Marin. Marin was the Acting Director from February 2013 to April 2016. During her six years tenure as Acting Director of Immigration, the audit only covers about seven months of that period under Marin. Well, during that period, the Auditor General complained that Marin was not cooperating with the audit team. When questioned about it by the Chair of the Committee, Senator Aldo Salazar, Marin disagreed with the assertion, saying that she and her officers were more than willing to assist the audit team.

ALDO SALAZAR

“The suggestion is made that you were not as cooperative as was expected from the auditor general’s team in your interaction with the audit team in conducting the audit, is that the case?”

MARIA MARIN

“No sir not at all. The audit team came to visit me in November and that was comprised  of the Auditor General; November of 2013. I can recall that she came with at least two senior auditors at the time. They came to indicate to me and they told me that they were called to do an audit of the department. At that time I told them that I welcomed that opportunity because I feel that that audit would add substance to what I had already been trying to achieve at the department through my ministry. At no time did I indicate to them that they were not welcomed there. We made all the necessary arrangements there was never ever any resistance I think that I gave them every opportunity to look at every document that they requested that I had in my possession or was at the department at the time. I had a meeting with my officer in charge, heads of sections to ensure that they were cooperative and that they provided everything that was available at the department and with them for the audit. I understand what an audit is, in my previous jobs I was privy to audits being made there and I know the significance of an audit I knew that this audit could only be a positive thing for the department and so I welcomed it, in fact it was at the insistence of myself at the time as the acting director that the ministry engaged in an investigation for eight missing visas at the Western Border because when I assumed to the post of acting director that was a grey cloud over my assumption, that had occurred in December 2012. When I took over in 2013 no investigation had started and I insisted to the ministry for an investigation and the result of that was a memo that was copied to the AG and that I believe is what prompted the very first occasion that prompted her interest in coming to the department.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“So your position is that the initial audit, I know that it was expanded in the course of the previous audit was expanded when this issue came about with Wong Hong Kim.”

MARIA MARIN

“As I understand it they had made a decision apparently to do an audit as a result of that memo which I think was dated sometime in October 9th or something like that and on the 16th of September I was made aware of the Wong Hong Kim passport situation and I think it was as a result of that situation that the AG decided to expand into not only visas but nationalities and passports.”

According to Marin, she wrote a six page response to preliminary findings which suggested that she was being uncooperative.

MARIA MARIN

“I sent a six page response to the preliminary report of March 2014. My response was dated July 2014 to the AG; it was a six page response in which I indicated to them that at no time ..”

ALDO SALAZAR

“When was that dated?”

MARIA MARIN

“July 2014 I have copies if you would want those available.”

MARK LIZARRAGA

“Is this the preliminary report that you are referring to is this the same preliminary report? Actually on the bottom it is dated March 19th 2014 and what I’d like to ask is that is the document that you are referring to as the preliminary report right? Okay it’s dated March 19th 2014 and this is the document that you claim you received via an email that had been circulating; but this memo was actually sent to your CEO am I correct.”

MARIA MARIN

“Yes that is what this says. I got this after I saw.”

MARK LIZARRAGA

“No no I’m asking was it sent to your CEO, who was your CEO at the time?”

MARIA MARIN

“Mrs.Candelaria Saldivar Morter.”

MARK LIZARRAGA

“Mrs.Saldivar

MARIA MARIN

“If I am allowed to say what happened. I first became aware of the preliminary report via that email. I contacted my ministry and I asked whether they had a copy and whether I could get a copy of it and that is why I explained in my response to the AG.”

MARK LIZARRAGA

“Which we have not seen.”

MARIA MARIN

“Right. Can I read it? It says “I sincerely regret the delay in responding to the report but it was only on the 22nd of July 2014 that I was able to get a copy of the report after having made several request for a copy. Additionally I had been advised that the CEO would respond to your report as per the concerns noted with its contents.” When I read that preliminary report via email I immediately contacted my ministry and I asked.”

MARK LIZARRAGA

“Who in the ministry?”

MARIA MARIN

“My CEO and the minister, both and I asked about it and I asked if anybody would respond or if anybody had responded and I was told that yes the CEO would have responded. I asked for a copy of both the response by the CEO and a copy of the preliminary report. When I finally got a copy of those two in my view what I read as the CEOs response I was not satisfied with it.”

Marin was accompanied by Attorney Darrell Bradley.All members of the Committee were present and they are to meet again next week Wednesday.