Missing, damaged documents stymie probe

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City Hall audit

The Auditor General’s audit of the Georgetown Mayor & City Council (M&CC) has been completed, and a final report is expected soon.

Auditor General Deodat Sharma

The process has not been smooth sailing, however, with reports emerging that auditors were stymied in their work by documents not being provided.
According to Auditor-General Deodat Sharma, there were many gaps that remained unfilled in the investigation. He noted that because of these missing and sometimes even damaged documents, there will be a number of pages in the final report that will carry disclaimers.
“Right now we’re preparing the report,” Sharma stated in a recent interview with this publication. “But we have not sent it to the Town Clerk yet, because they have not provided all the documents. So we may have to give a disclaimer,” he continued. “A lot of records were not presented. Some were water soaked, so some of the years will definitely carry a disclaimer.”
Be that as it may, however, the Auditor General was optimistic of the report being completed within the next few weeks.

Town Clerk Royston King

Audit
Despite being the ones who wrote to the Auditor General’s office requesting an audit, City Hall officials have reportedly not been as helpful as expected. In fact, the final phase of the audit was at one point stalled due to the lack of cooperation.
Things had reportedly reached a point necessitating a letter to be sent to Town Clerk Royston King over the undue delays being caused by City Hall officials not making the necessary documents available for the auditors.
There have been persistent calls for City Hall to be fully audited. Back in 2015, the Georgetown M&CC had received two grants under the Communities Ministry’s Capital Programme for the “Georgetown Restoration Programme”, in addition to the “Emergency Solid Waste Management of Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill”.
Each multi-million-dollar grant was based on Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) between the Communities Ministry’s Permanent Secretary and the capital city’s Town Clerk. According to the Auditor General’s 2015 Report, there were several “discrepancies” in the way the allotted sums of money to the City Council were spent during the year.
According to reports, after examining 212 payment vouchers, many discrepancies were found, including hundreds of instances where there was no evidence of the payment vouchers being certified by the accountant or another authorised officer.
Last year, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Councillor Bishram Kuppen had written to the press a letter in which he had expressed dissatisfaction that the motions for an audit of the municipality’s affairs were denied.
In his letter, the PPP Councillor had cited the millions of dollars in revenue the city had collected, with important services still un-provided and financial difficulties being cited. Kuppen had also referred to the $8 million donation from the Chinese Government, intended to assist the clean-up campaign in Georgetown.
Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase Green had denied all suggestions that she was stymieing attempts to conduct an audit into City Hall. In fact, she claimed she had been the one calling for an audit.