City Council yet to respond to damning audit findings
$300M Georgetown Restoration
Over two years have passed since the Audit Office conducted a special audit into the $300 million Georgetown Restoration programme and presented the findings to a Commission of Inquiry, and the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) is yet to respond to the audit’s damning findings.
It is customary when an audit into an agency is conducted, to afford that agency the right of reply. Such was done with the M&CC in the case of the interim audit findings of May 2018. But according to Auditor General Deodat Sharma’s 2019 report, the council and its treasury department are yet to respond to the Audit Office.
“The audit was requested by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Further, the request was made during a meeting held on 6 February 2017, where the audit findings of the MoC for the year 2016 were being discussed,” the Audit Report explained. “The Head of Budget Agency indicated that the Ministry has since written the City Treasurer to make all information available. Recommendation: The Audit Office once again recommends that the Municipality responds urgently to the findings contained in the interim audit report.”
In the report, the Audit Office reminded that the sum of $300M which was budgeted for the Georgetown restoration and enhancement initiatives was shown as expended as at December 31, 2019. One of the audit findings is that a vehicle was purchased for the Mayor, which was not in the capital profile. Despite this, approval for inclusion to programme was seen.
“Included in the amount of $300M were sums totalling $173.658M which were paid over to the Town Clerk, Mayor & Councillors of the City of Georgetown (MCC). It should be noted that the MCC is subject to separate reporting and audit. The last audit for this entity was done for the year 2004, and at the time of reporting, Financial Statements were not received for the years 2006, 2008 to 2011, and 2017 to 2019.”
Back in October 2018, a Commission of Inquiry (COI) heard that over $70 million was unaccounted for from the City Restoration Fund, while there were no financial records for the years 2006 to 2011.
This was according to the finance records from the Audit Office of Guyana, which were presented by the Audit Manager Dhanraj Persaud at the CoI which was chaired by retired Justice Cecil Kennard.
As he delved into the matter, Persaud had showed that Central Government, through the Communities Ministry, had supplied funds for city restoration projects in the sum of $300 million in 2015 and in 2016; another $200 million was injected into the initiative, for a total of $500 million. However, when checks were made into the expenditure of these projects, over $70.489 million was unaccounted for.
The CoI into City Hall came at a time when numerous complaints were made by staffers of the Council and other agencies regarding the expenditure and decisions which were taken by the Council.
Consequently, actions were taken by the Local Government Commission to probe the operations at City Hall. The then Town Clerk, Royston King, was also instructed to proceed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.