Oct 19, 2016 News
…as Audit Report raises questions of mismanagement
“The Town Clerk’s incompetence is becoming most taxing on the Municipality and he should be removed immediately.” – Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan
Deputy Mayor of the City of Georgetown Sherod Duncan believes that the city’s Town Clerk Royston King should be removed “immediately” due to recent findings published in the Auditor General’s report for the fiscal year 2015.
Duncan in an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday said that a few weeks ago at a statutory meeting, the Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green, had informed City Hall that it will be audited.
“It was a response to a councillor’s query on secret bank accounts. She felt City Hall would be vindicated once and for all.”
However, Duncan said that since the audit, City Hall is even more mired in serious questions of mismanagement. He emphasised, “This stops at the feet of the Town Clerk. I’ve said it before, all the Town Clerk’s actions led to chaos from issue to issue, scandal to scandal, the AG’s Report being the latest.”
According to Duncan, the stewardship of City finances is so poorly managed, it speaks clearly to an absolute lack and total disregard for transparency and accountability. “The Town Clerk’s incompetence is becoming most taxing on the Municipality and he should be removed immediately.”
The Auditor General’s Report of the City had addressed the sum of $300M which was allotted for Georgetown’s restoration initiatives for environmental improvement and improved health and well-being. The full amount was exhausted as at December 31, 2015.
According to the audit, there were 212 examined payment vouchers containing discrepancies.
It was observed by the auditors that there were 167 instances totalling $159.968M where there was no evidence of the payment vouchers being certified by the accountant or any other authorised officer.
The report also said that approval by the City Treasurer was absent from 140 payment vouchers amounting to $143.682M. There was no evidence showing the Finance Committee approving 48 payments on 58 instances totalling $48.404M.
Auditors also found that there was no evidence of receipt or payee acknowledgment for a payment of $750,000 to a contractor via cheque.
The report said that the AG’s Office could not ascertain whether proper transparency and accountability procedures were exercised in the awarding of a number of contracts.
These contracts were for the weeding of parapets, de-silting of drains and cutting down of trees in areas around the city. The basis for the awarding of the contracts could not be determined due to the unavailability of the relevant supporting documents.
The Audit Office in light of these controversial issues had recommended that the Town Council should adhere to financial instructions and regulations, as well as tender procedures which are set out in the Procurement Act 2003.
Besides the revelations of the Audit, Duncan believes that the parking meter contract and the treatment of the Robb Street vendors justify the removal of the Town Clerk.
According to the Deputy Mayor, the Ministry of Finance’s review of the parking meter contract described certain parts as “ignorant”. “This was negotiated by the Town Clerk.”
Further, Duncan said that the Attorney-General’s Office called the contract “onerous” and President David Granger called it “burdensome”. Also, Duncan said that the movement of vendors from Robb Street had been described by the President as “reckless”.
Duncan said that the Council has passed, by majority decision, amendments to the contract. However, the Deputy Mayor said that he abstained for several reasons.
“The Finance Ministry’s review had indicated that if the contract had not been tendered or procurement procedures were followed, then the contract should be withdrawn. These procedures were flouted; hence I could not support the contract among other reasons.”
The Deputy Mayor went on to say that although he and several councillors have withheld their support, they are pleased that it was due to their efforts that the Council was able to amend the agreement, thereby creating an entirely different contractual arrangement.
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