According to a concerned councillor, the Finance Committee of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council has failed to present quarterly financial reports to the Full Council of the municipality. These reports, he emphasised, play a vital role in ensuring transparency and accountability as they inform the Council about how money is being spent.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, Councillor Bishram Kuppen said that the Finance Committee which deals with all expenditures for the council has not presented a financial report since Local Government Elections in March 2016.
He said that the Committee is supposed to bring before the Full Council such reports so that councillors can know what projects are being financed, how the money is being spent and who are the persons or companies being contracted.
According to the councillor, attempts have been made for these reports to be produced but to no avail. He said that the Chairman of the Works Committee had prepared a list of projects being undertaken by the M&CC and efforts were made to have the financial information regarding these projects supplied to the Full Council but again, nothing positive.
“We were advised at the last Statutory meeting that a list of ongoing projects has been presented to the Works Committee Chairman, but all councillors have not yet received or seen this list.”
He said that it is necessary that these matters be discussed in the open.
The only expenditures which the council is fully aware of are the contracts which deal with solid waste management, for which Cevon’s Waste Disposal Service and Puran Brothers are the recipients.
Following the Local Government Elections of 2016, the Georgetown Mayor and City Council has been accused of mismanagement in many instances.
Kuppen had written extensively on these accountability issues where he pointed out in a letter that the Finance Committee has produced a few reports, but none were financial in nature. “As I recall, no contracts or projects were brought to the full Council for debate, discussion or approval, except for a consultancy project to assess the City Abattoir where, according to the Town Clerk, he had written to three companies and only one of them responded, and so the contract was awarded to that company.”
He added that the City Treasurer presents a financial statement each month which does not provide any details of current projects and nothing more than a summary of the monthly financial position of the council.
“So the full council has not yet received any detailed reports for any projects, contracts or works that were completed, or that are currently being executed including the names of contractors, contract amount, and how much money was spent so far, the details and scope of each project, completion dates and who authorised such projects.”
According to Kuppen, the M&CC has spent $2B of revenue collected up to November 2016, with about 55 per cent going towards employment costs. However, councillors have not been provided with any detailed financial reports on how all of the balance of money was spent.
“If you were to ask the overwhelming majority of councillors if they are aware of how much money was spent on projects, and the financial details on any of those projects, including the contracts, you would not get a good answer. It seems that only the Mayor, Town Clerk and some members of the Finance Committee may know what is going on, while the rest of councillors are in the dark. How could you manage a City in this manner and expect good results?”
Kuppen told this publication that this void in the provision of financial records was one reason why the Auditor General’s Report for 2015, had uncovered a number of discrepancies regarding the spending of the $300M which was allotted to the council for the city’s restoration.
He said that this prompted the Ministry of Communities to launch its own investigation into the council’s spending of the money. The councillor said that the Municipal and District Councils Act Cap. 28:01 provides that the accounts of the municipality be audited once every year.
The councillor said that the various committees of the council are only required to make recommendations as it relates to spending, while the full council makes the final decision. However based on the current practices, decisions on spending are being made without the council’s blessing.
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