Apr 27, 2019 News
Overseers will not be given a free pass if they fail to embrace professionalism in all aspects of their work. This declaration was made by Regional Executive Officer [REO] of the Regional Democratic Council of Region Four, Ms. Pauline Lucas, who has certainly been setting an example for the Region.
“I would usually say each day that if the Ministry of Communities was to call me and say ‘Miss Lucas we no longer need your services’, I can hold my head very high and say proudly that I have never allowed myself to be compromised.
“I never had any hidden or contrary deal as I have maintained transparency and credibility in everything that I do so no contractor, staff or anyone can say that I did things that I shouldn’t have,” Lucas shared
“So remember it’s your responsibility to be transparent; there must be accountability, there must be fairness and your most important stakeholders are the residents as you are there to serve them, not a political party or a political agenda but to serve the residents in your NDC,” Lucas told a gathering of her Region’s overseers at a recent workshop.
She, moreover, appealed to them to “leave the politics up to the politicians and in your case those are the Councillors. As the overseer, you need to remain professional and balanced.”
The REO made this charge even as she shared her disappointment over a number of incidents in the Region. These incidents brought to the fore the need for the overseers to better understand their roles and responsibilities.
This is important, she noted. “People are always looking even when it seems as though they are not and if they conduct themselves in a shady manner it will result in the public losing trust and confidence in them.”
“As Accounting Officers and as overseers we need to be transparent in whatever we are doing. Your Chairman or Vice Chairman may come and want you to give a particular contractor a contract but as an Overseer you must stand your ground. You don’t have to be disrespectful but in a respectable way you can inform the Chairman or the Vice Chair that you cannot do things in such an unprofessional manner.”
She added, “Remember the Chair, vice chair and councillors come and go but as the Accounting Officer you are expected to be there much longer than them. You are the ones who generally have the institutional memory so you need to say to them that it cannot be done like this but this is the correct way.
“You can only stand your ground if you know the procurement plan.”
She reiterated the need for overseers to follow the established process even as she warned them that failure to do so can and may result in action being taken against them.
She related, too, that there have been instances when NDCs should be advertising projects and works to be done but instead they keep the placement of advertisements quiet so as to deny members of the public from gaining information resulting in only their friends or associates being able to bid.
“You should place posters and the advertisements in many places within your NDCs. Use public buildings, supermarkets and places that residents frequent a lot so that they are aware of the works and contracts, not in your drawers or cabinet and when the deadline reaches you are coming to me with about two or three names to tell me that only these persons had expressed an interest.
“This is unprofessional, unlawful and let me put you on your guards, especially the new Councillors and Officers, that I will rid this region of this. I have, and continue, to see a number of fake invoices being submitted and it begs the question as to the true intention of several of the overseers,” Lucas added.
The REO disclosed, for instance, that in 2017 one NDC had submitted 11 Bill of Quantities and the 11 contracts awarded as a result were given to one particular contractor. Upon investigation Lucas said that she found that several of the signatures on the invoices were faked as some persons would create fake invoices so as to ensure that their friends secure the contract by way of having the lowest invoice price.
“These invoices are so fake that one look at the handwriting and you can tell that it is the same person who submitted the other invoices,” said Lucas.
The REO noted that while she is no handwriting expert, she sees the situation as being ridiculous, even as she urged the overseers to hold their ground irrespective of who would like to entrap them in the skulduggery.
According to Lucas, she intends to rid the region of such practices.
“Let me say this. It’s not the duty of the Chairperson or Vice Chair or anyone else to prepare any document. There is a process that must be followed so no Chairman or Councillor can come and tell you that they are doing this and that because the Chairman’s job is to deal with the constituency and not to be doing up the Bill of Quantity or quotation involved in the work of the Overseer and I am saying to you to hold your integrity as accounting officer,” Lucas cautioned.
The REO further expressed the view that Overseers should know the procurement Act and have it close to them like their bible so that they can speak with knowledge and authority.
Since overseers play the role of the financial adviser to the Council, they can only perform their role well if they are cognisant of their responsibilities, Lucas asserted.
“You are the Accounting Officer and I am pleading with you to follow the procurement process irrespective of what anyone on the Council, be it Chair, Vice Chair, wants to say as you should award the job to the best possible person who can do it.
“I would also like to stress upon you to ensure that whatever goods and or services that you are procuring that it is at the highest quality as you are the people’s representative so don’t forget that,” Lucas said.
She went on to charge the overseers to “spend taxpayers’ money the way you spend your own because I can tell you that when I am spending my money I am very careful because every cent matters to me so I do a lot of shopping around so that I can get the best price and quality and that is how I spend Government’s money with care and caution because I wouldn’t spend my money on nothing that I will not benefit from significantly.”
The REO also told the overseers that the procurement system in any agency or organisation is important, noting that it can either enhance transparency and credibility of the region or destroy all attempts at accountability.
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