Licenses to allow the continuance of a business operation in the city should not be issued unless there is ample evidence to indicate that clients have honoured their rates and taxes commitment.
This notion was emphasised by Chairman of the Implementation Committee, Keith Burrowes, who revealed that this state of affairs has been allowed to persist at the Georgetown municipality which has the responsibility for licensing the operations of businesses in the city.
Citing a hypothetical example, Burrowes said that City Hall is currently challenged by a situation whereby “it goes after one person for his taxes and we don’t know that he didn’t pay on his barbershop licence…My point is that if a man owes for rates and taxes, why is a license being issued to him? You need to know that he needs to pay up first…,” Burrowes asserted.
He was at the time addressing a gathering of municipal officials at a forum to launch a database software.
Debt recovery is another protracted challenge that has overwhelmed the municipality, Burrowes noted.
According to him, a major part of the city entity’s work revolves around the debt recovery unit. Additionally, Burrowes disclosed that based on information at his disposal the municipality currently has two junior staffers in this department.
“I don’t know their experience in collecting debt. But as I said to the team the other day debt recovery is not just a phone call and demand notices.”
At the moment, he said that the municipality’s debt recovery efforts are totally outside of the acceptable rate. “In a commercial bank two to three percent default is reasonable because they are able to make provision. In a development bank I think it is about 10 to 15 percent which is acceptable.
“I don’t know what is your acceptable default rates but what I believe is that you need to have a cut off point that will alert councillors to a situation which is deteriorating…Right now we don’t have that.”
It is for this reason, Burrowes highlighted that there is urgent need for the implementation of the database system which will help to monitor this process. He said that the implementation will support the council’s team in debt recovery.
He revealed plans to have training programmes to deal with debt recovery for the entire senior management of the council. This is especially crucial, he said, as debt recovery is not merely narrowed to the Treasurer’s Department.
“Right now we are in the news because we really are in a bad state…So we will run behind the debt now because we can’t pay the garbage contractors and we might not be able to pay salaries. Then we will go back to sleep once we are finished with that…”
City Hall, Burrowes asserted has not been able to manage its clients effectively, adding that the efforts are not made to relate to garbage contractors for instance until there is no money to pay for services rendered.
According to Burrowes, even when finances are available City Hall should engage the contractors so that any looming problems could be discussed in good fate. “Those people have expenses…they have incurred cost; most of them would take overdraft and for those who don’t know the overdraft interest is high…So while they are waiting on you they have other expenses too. I think it is a bit unfair if we know that this situation is getting worse that we wait only when they pull their services to have discussions.”
One of the issues that was highlighted during the most recent meeting Burrowes held with the municipal finances committee was that the municipality with its own facilities is moving 50 percent of the garbage.
“But support will be forthcoming,” Burrowes added.
Meanwhile, outside of the Debt Recovery Unit, Burrowes has helped to install an accounting software which will help to bolster the operation of the Treasury Department.
According to Burrowes, the municipality cannot afford to operate the same way it has over the years. “Right now there is a General Ledger (GL) that is electronically generated but the entries are still passed incorrectly as last year. At the end of the day the GL will be incorrect and our investment would have gone down the drain.”
According to Burrowes, there is a need for somebody to be in place to ensure that entries are posted correctly, adding that when the accounting software and the database system are fully functional the credibility of the municipal information will undoubtedly improve.
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