$100-m death debt

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Proprietor of Lyn’s Funeral Home Calvin Lyn has called on the Ministry of National Security to pay up an estimated $100 million now owed to nine government-contracted funeral homes for pauper burials and storage of unclaimed bodies.

He accused the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine (IFSLM), an agency of the national security ministry, of “dilly-dallying” to make arrangements to pay funeral homes.

“Nine of us are owed an estimated amount of $100 million for burial of paupers and unclaimed bodies — upwards of five years in some cases. Repeated requests have been made to both offices — the institute and the ministry — to no avail; all we are getting are promises. It has reached a stage whereby some contractors are not carrying out any more burials, at this time, of these cases. Unclaimed and pauper bodies are piling up at these contractors’ funeral establishment,” Lyn told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the authorities to do something positive, as it is long overdue,” he added.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security Courtney Williams, in response to Lyn’s appeal, said an audit is being done to determine how much money is owed to the contractors, noting that there are limitations to the contracts between IFSLM and the funeral homes.

“I am not going to get into any particular details on this now but IFSLM would have contracts with the funeral homes to take care of certain aspects of the matter right up to the point where it would have left the remit of the forensic lab. In that case, the contracts that the forensic lab has with the funeral homes do not include the burial of paupers… The lab wouldn’t have anything more to do with the storage in the funeral home once the lab has done what it needs to do in terms of the forensics,” he said.

Williams declined to name the government agency with which dialogue is ongoing for the responsibility of pauper burials.

“We are actually in conversation with [the] other government entity that may have responsibility once the forensic part of it ends… I can’t go into any details of it right now,” he said.

Lyn claimed that the Ministry of National Security, in a letter, said it was awaiting funding from the Ministry of Finance to clear monies owed to contractors.

[The information received was], “Just to say that they are sourcing the money from the Ministry of Finance. I have not heard from the Ministry of National Security for two months now. We sought a meeting with them, but nothing. They are treating us like we don’t exist,” said Lyn.

Williams said invoices received from funeral homes are being audited.

“I don’t recall that correspondence saying we are awaiting approval from the Ministry of Finance. What we would have said is that the audit team is going through to verify, because there were some invoices that were sent. Those invoices are going through a process of audit so as to ensure you can actually separate what is for the forensic part of it versus the storage and burial costs,” he said.

Lyn said the process is taking too long as he is owed more than $5 million and has eight unclaimed bodies in storage at his morgue.

“We keep working and we not getting any pay; that is not fair… One of the contractors have about 50 [unclaimed bodies] weh nuh bury yet. Him nah bury dem till him get money,” he said.

Lyn, who is also president of the Jamaica Association of Certified Embalmers and Funeral Directors, is adamant that the contracted funeral homes need to be paid.

“They have been dilly-dallying. Forensics playing a dilly-dally game, hiding from something. As far as I know it is forensics that we did the work for, on their instructions. Forensics is responsible to us and with their ministry that they are a part of, to get the money to pay us,” he said.

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