Hats off to the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development for ordering a forensic audit at the Georgetown Municipality!
Citizens will have to hold their breaths as they await those findings.
Unsurprisingly, the Mayor is requesting, as a prerequisite to the commencement of this badly-needed exercise, to receive “terms of reference of the audit”, clearly a tactic intended to delay, distract and divert attention.
Well, here are a few TORs I would like to suggest. First, I would like the auditors to find out what the Council’s Internal Auditor and the Internal Audit Department were doing for the last seven years. Why have the Council’s books not been prepared for auditing during this prolonged period? This is in addition to the Council creating a Special Audit Committee – all nothing but complete waste of time and money.
A human resource audit should be done to enquire into their discriminatory and well-known ‘friends and family’ hiring process, pure nepotism, cronyism, and favouritism at its highest, which have taken place over the years at City Hall.
Then there is their “too many Chiefs and not enough Braves,” extremely top heavy staff structure; the arbitrary placement of some persons to the top of the salary scales in ‘extreme featherbedding’; the rapid promotion of some and the stagnation of others, leading to supercession; the non-payment of deductions made from employees’ incomes to the National Insurance Scheme, the Guyana Revenue Authority, and to credit unions, which is not only a complete violation of the laws of Guyana, but an appalling injustice to their workers, who can get no benefits or healthcare.
The auditors should examine the notorious parking meter fiasco, which was illegally set up and implemented for a while, until pressure was brought to bear by civil society.
They should also look at the unlawful waiver of interest on property rates, which the Council has no authority to grant, but rather can only give some discounts in specially prescribed circumstances.
They should also enquire into why the Council is failing to serve demand notices on property owners, a requirement by law.
Another TOR of the audit should be to look at the illegal leasing and sale of municipal reserves all around the city, in places such as alongside the Lamaha Canal water conservancy, on the southern extremity of Mandela Avenue adjacent to Aubrey Barker Road, and in Industrial Site at Ruimveldt.
The TOR of the audit should include the examination of the Council’s procurement processes, and the consistent failure to ensure that the procurement of goods, services and execution of works were conducted in a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive, and cost-effective manner, according to law and such policy guidelines provided by the Procurement Act and regulations.
And the TOR should have the auditors look for payroll fraud and phantom employees, asset misappropriation, skimming, expense reimbursement, and misuse of municipal vehicles and other assets.
To the Auditors, I say: “Here’s a four-leaf clover”.