City Hall warned of ‘suspicious’ undervaluing, disposal of public assets

…Georgetown not personal property of M&CC – Local Government Minister

The Local Government and Regional Development Ministry on Tuesday sent a strong warning to the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown, adverting to the consequences attached to undervaluing and disposing of the city’s assets in a ‘shady’ manner.
According to the Ministry, shared reports suggest that several properties owned by the Mayor and City Council have been undervalued and are currently being negotiated for disposal through very questionable processes.
“The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development notes with concern the vigorous pursuit by the Mayor and some Councillors of the City of Georgetown to dispose of public assets of the city through highly-suspicious and shady transactions.”
In light of such information, the Council was advised that Georgetown is not the ‘personal property’ of the M&CC, and the disposal of such assets or real estate will not be condoned.
“Parties to these corrupt transactions will be held accountable and will face the full extent of the law,” the Ministry posited.
After taking office last year, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) Government had launched an audit into City Hall, targeting both the financial and operational makeup of the municipality.
Last month, it was pointed out by Auditor General Deodat Sharma that City Hall’s last audit dates back several years ago. For that audit, he noted, all they did was submit financial statements for 2019 and 2020, and even those were not properly prepared. When it comes to the years of unreconciled City Hall accounts, Sharma noted, the best option may be to start over.
“What I’ve advised several entities, including them, let’s close the books, open new books, take an asset that was there and start fresh. Get new bank accounts and everything. Because it doesn’t make sense to go back to 2005, 2006. Let’s sit down, list all the assets and cash positions, and start a new balance sheet,” the Auditor General has been quoted as saying.
In February, the council was placed in a conundrum as it relates to leased properties in the city and the possession of relevant documents for those lands.
Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine had explained that the Communities Ministry had sent 54 leases for the Council to examine. However, they were battling with cases where multiple leases exist for the same plot of land.
According to Narine, properties which were leased for less than the actual worth had cost the Council millions of dollars.
Throughout recent years, there have been many issues at the Council surrounding leased properties. One month prior, the quorum was at odds over the Water Street, Georgetown training complex, which remained unused since 2014. While some Councillors were of the belief that the building should be leased to garner much-needed revenue, others disapproved the price offered. City Hall had received a proposal of $1.5M per month for the said spot.
In 2018, during the Commission of Inquiry, it was heard that former Town Clerk Royston King had leased lands to Quick Shipping Incorporated. This plot of land was not owned by the Council, but rather the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). (G12)