City Council has no financial accountability – Goolsarran
…calls for immediate audit
With a decade-long gap of no public presentation of its financial position, the City Council has proven to have no financial accountability, former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran on Monday stated as he called for an immediate in-depth audit into the Council.
In an interview with Guyana Times, Goolsarran insisted that 10 years of arrears in terms of financial reporting and auditing was not only a “disturbing trend”, but also showed that the Council had no interest in bringing the accounts up to order.
He stated that as of August 2013, the last set of audited accounts of the Council was for 2004 and that the Audit Office had received financial statements for the years 2005 and 2007. There is no evidence to suggest that any financial statements were produced for 2006.
According to the Municipal and District Councils Act, within four months of the close of the financial year, the city treasurer is required to prepare and submit to the auditor financial statements for that year for audit. If the treasurer fails to comply, he/she will be guilty of an offence.
“Something has to be done because no efforts are being made to find out what happened in the last 10 years. This infers serious problems,” Goolsarran said, noting that during his tenure as the Auditor General he had cause to repudiate his opinion on the Council’s financial statements. He stated that the accounts were in such a bad state that he was unable to endorse them as it related to their completeness, accuracy, and validity.
The City Hall has been lashed with criticisms from all sides, more recently with the proposal to introduce a parking meter system as a means of generating revenue for the Council. There have been other discrepancies highlighted within the Council which had pushed critics to lobby for a forensic audit.
A few of these discrepancies were allegations that residential property owners were been allowed a 100 per cent reprieve on the interest on rates they owed to the Council, while commercial and corporate property owners were offered a 50 per cent to 75 per cent amnesty – dependent on special circumstances.
However, this 75 per cent maximum amnesty has allegedly been breached many times and some commercial and corporate property owners have been awarded discounts of up to 100 per cent.
Goolsarran stated that while there was no concrete evidence to suggest wrongdoing within the Council over the last 10 years, he has deduced that non-timely presentation of financial statements implied disinterest and, therefore, raised eyebrows about the handling of fiscal matters within the Council.
“The newly-elected Councillors have to demand an audit and call for accountability within the City Council. They need to reflect on how best to fix the broken system and bring the accounts up to date. Simultaneously, they need to commission a special audit for the last 10 years because gathering the information for that time would take years…and the people anxious to know what has been going on within City Hall and I am anxious…so a special audit is also necessary,” he said.
Goolsarran insisted that given the Council’s lack of financial accountability, any proposal geared at enhancing the Council’s revenue base would be illogical. “It is like fixing a broken net. You cannot use it unless it is patched or you buy a new one.”
“So before they engage in earning revenue, they need to fix the system because what guarantee do we have that the money collected from the parking meters would be accounted for?” he questioned.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo recently called on President Granger to commission an audit into the City Hall. He stated that the Council has been allocated millions and the country needed to know how much of those monies were spent. He stated that it was imperative to find out how many tax waivers it had given out and how it had tendered its contracts.