Jul 02, 2008 News
Following extensive deliberations, at an extraordinary meeting at City Hall yesterday, on the recently released Auditor General report which revealed financial irregularities, a motion was passed that Town Clerk Ms Beulah Williams and City Treasurer Mr Roderick Edinboro be sent on leave, and that measures be engaged to identify replacements for them.
The motion, which was proposed by Councillor Ranwell Jordan, was passed unchallenged since there was no abstention or objection, and thus was accepted by City Mayor Hamilton Green.
At the meeting, Jordan said that the move was imperative in light of the recommendations and serious implications involving the senior officers outlined in the report.
He also suggested that the Council appoint a delegation to meet the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development to discuss further action, even as the Council’s Personnel and Training Committee seeks to find replacements for the senior positions.
The motion came on the heels of passionate deliberations by councillors, who were tasked with determining whether the contents of the report constituted fraudulent actions or simply theft.
Expressing immense annoyance at the situation, Councillor Junior Garrett pointed out that the discussion of the report was being done at the wrong forum, and should in fact be taken directly to the Police.
“This report should be in the hand of the Police…The report shows that this administration has blatantly misused tax payers’ money. We cannot encourage this to continue. People face the court for even less than this; people fail lie detector tests and lose their jobs…”
According to Garrett, as a member of the People’s National Congress Reform, he will not be labelled as one who condoned corruption but, instead, expects to see efforts implemented to ensure that there is accountability.
He categorically noted that the Council had no choice but to implement the recommendations of the report to rid the system of the revealed atrocities.
Councillor Hector Stoute, in reporting his dissatisfaction, said that the whole situation should never have been allowed to occur, even as he noted that the Council should take some responsibility for tolerating incompetence for a long period.
Several other councillors did not hesitate to emphasise their desire to see the recommendations of the report being implemented forthwith, in order to reverse the current mismanaged status of the municipality.
Recounting the chronicle of the financial collapse of the municipality, Deputy Mayor and chairman of the municipal financial committee, Robert Williams, disclosed that several efforts were made to prevent what has become reality.
Williams said that as far back as 1997, and even up to 2006, the Council had invited the Auditor General Office to examine its financial situation, and even assist in budgetary preparation.
However, the current report, the Deputy Mayor said, became a reality after the Auditor General was invited to undertake a special investigation in seven financial areas covering a period of January to December 2007.
These areas, he said, included payment of wages and salaries, payments in lieu of leave, advances to officers, deduction of officers’ deposits, reconciliation of bank accounts, assessment and collection of rates and taxes, and information systems cost.
“The Auditor General report has drawn attention to serious deficiencies which, once accurate, dispute the integrity of the department to deliver its mandate. The report has outlined serious breaches, for which explanation is required and immediate corrective action taken. The breaches of the various systems are inexcusable, and deviations from procedures and established practises unacceptable.”
The findings of the report are extensively implicating both the Town Clerk and the City Treasurer in major improprieties.
While the Town Clerk was on hand to defend herself, she reported that the City Treasurer was unable to attend, since he was unwell.
The Town Clerk recommended that a review of the report be done, noting that she was of the belief that the Auditor General did not receive adequate information.
And though he regarded the situation as “dramatic, traumatic and very serious,” City Mayor Hamilton Green noted his satisfaction that unanimity was garnered at the meeting.
“We have tried to work with this Town Clerk but she has made it clear that she is in charge, because she flouts the proposals of this Council and she flouts the proposals of this mayor openly.”
As such, the mayor noted, there is no way that business could continue as usual. “I am satisfied that the two principal officers are not really interested in working with this Council…”
The recent investigation by the Auditor General was as a consequence of several concerns expressed over time about the purported discrepancies within the City Treasurer’s Department.
In mid-January the Auditor General was contacted, and commenced work at the municipality on May 23 last.
An initial draft report was submitted, and, according to the City Mayor, came to the attention of the Town Clerk, although it was addressed to the mayor requesting responses on some discoveries within the department.
During the course of the investigation, the City Treasurer was sent on leave to allow for a proper and thorough investigation, since it was alleged the process was being compromised.
It was recommended later in the investigation that he return to answer orally to some findings, at which point it was reported that he was disrespectful.
Among the members of the delegation slated to meet with the Local Government Minister to address the decision taken at yesterday’s meeting are the City Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, and Councillors Ranwell Jordan, Junior Garrett, Patricia Chase-Green, Premchand Dass, and Elme Ishmael.
The matter will be brought to the attention of the Minister of Local Government, since the Council is not vested with the authority to dismiss officers, and because there is no extant Local Government Commission.
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