Commissioner’s absence from jurisdiction delays unveiling of report
… Inquiry at City Hall
The much anticipated press conference slated for yesterday to unveil the contents of the Commission of Inquiry Report on the affairs of the Georgetown municipality has once again been postponed.
Commissioner of Inquiry, Keith Burrowes, said last week that he along with Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall, would have been hosting the press conference. Initially the press conference was slated for last week Friday.
But according to Burrowes, he submitted the three-volume report to the Minister last Friday to allow him time to peruse the document before facing questions from the media at the press conference that was set for yesterday.
However, information emanating from the Minister’s office yesterday, revealed that Burrowes was out of the jurisdiction, thus the plans for a formal handing over and press conference had to once again be put on hold.
City Mayor Hamilton Green has on numerous occasions raised his concerns about the prolonged nature of the inquiry process.
At a press conference last month, the City Mayor highlighted the fact that the findings of the 2007 Auditor General (AG) Report of the Georgetown municipality remains in limbo one year after it was presented.
He had also expressed trepidation that efforts to bring a resolution to the facts uncovered by the AG seem long in coming.
Emphasising his convictions, Green had noted that there is no way that any entity could be governed properly unless it has proper management and money. As such he speculated that something has to be wrong that after one year there has been no restoration of the municipality.
“This interregnum is hurting the municipality. I have no doubt that Keith Burrowes (Commissioner of Inquiry) is well intentioned and in fact broadened quite substantially his inquiry of the scope of operations. He has shown a willingness to help us but the old cliché holds good that justice delayed is justice denied.”
But according to Burrowes at a press briefing earlier this month, investigating the affairs of the Georgetown municipality was no easy task as the entity cannot be described as a normal organisation.
“If we were investigating a normal organisation this report would have been completed in one week,” Burrowes related.
He explained that the Treasurer’s Department in which a multitude of the problems were uncovered, lacked the basic tools, such as a general ledger, required for the proper functioning of such a department.
According to Burrowes, the department had no entries posted, thus there is nothing that can be examined to reveal the department’s track record.
Understandably, he disclosed that the auditors have given a disclaimer since the year 2004, meaning that they do not accept anything in the entity’s reports.
“If I was looking at one transaction that would take me about one day in a normal organisation, it would take me one month in the scenario of the Georgetown municipality,” said Burrowes.
And although the council has had several consultancies over the years, the Commissioner related that there were problems with those reports and the recommendations in some cases as they were not practical.
He said that the recommendations included in the Commission’s report are those that he has ensured could be implemented first before they were considered. And because of such a meticulous process, he admitted that the process required extra time to be completed.
“I don’t believe anybody envisaged the kind of work that was involved in this exercise,” said Burrowes as he reflected on the inquiry process, which according to him commenced in earnest in October.
He noted that much work was not done in the month of December but the report was initially completed and handed over to Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall, around June 17 last.
The inquiry, he said, continued after the detection of a fraud at the city entity.