Auditor General examining City Council's accounts
- Green alleges financial irregularities By Stacey Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
January 11, 2002

THE Auditor General is auditing the accounts of the City Council at the request of Mayor Hamilton Green who claims there are financial irregularities in the council.

He alleges about $700,000 is missing from a transaction last year between the council and AH&L Kissoon Limited.

"Even if the alleged transaction took place, there is still to be accounted for items to the value of approximately $700,000.00 which represent the difference between items purportedly received and the documents showing items reportedly delivered", Green said in a letter to Minister within the Ministry of Local Government, Mr. Clinton Collymore.

He explained that the council had finalised arrangements for credit facilities from the firm, which was part of a financial package agreed after intensive negotiations involving the Town Clerk and the Finance Committee Chairman.

"This arrangement included the payment of $1.5M monthly to us, towards the liquidation of all arrears by the said firm in addition to the credit facilities", he told the minister.

The mayor stated that since the council needed to increase its fleet of tractors and ancillary equipment, it was agreed that the priority should be the acquisition of a tractor or tractors, then those items which are sold by the firm and required by the municipality in accordance with its approved budget. These items included ply board, paint, office furniture and equipment.

Green said the amount was discovered missing at a joint meeting of the council's Legal Affairs and Security and Social Development committees in November last year, when information was requested in relation to this transaction.

He said the council's administration failed to submit the required information within the specified period and subsequently did so on December 5 when the matter was reviewed.

"The administration submitted a report showing the utilisation of $4,560,862.00 in items while the information obtained by the Chairman of the Finance Committee, directly from the firm of AH&L Kissoon, showed a total of $5,255,493.00 collected by the Mayor and City Council."

The mayor said it was further discovered that in some instances, the standard operational procedure was not adhered to.

Cases he cited included:

* All items were not uplifted by the Procurement Office, but some departments or sections uplifted items directly from the firm.

* Some items or documents did not go through the office of the Stores Superintendent in keeping with known and prescribed procedures.

* No inventory has been written up at the relevant offices to which the items were allegedly sent.

"The entire transaction reflects a complete disregard for the Standard Operational Procedures of the Council", he charged.

"While the arrangements were approved, no individual vouchers were submitted for the signatures of the authorised members of the Finance Committee in accordance with Section 149 of the Municipal and District Council's Act", Green said.

The Mayor also called on Collymore for immediate action to have an inquiry by the appropriate authorities into the council's affairs.

At a news conference last week, Green suggested that Town Clerk, Ms. Beulah Williams; Public Relations Officer, Mr. Royston King, City Engineer, Mr. Cephas James and the Personnel Officer, Ms. Paulette Braithwaithe should be disciplined because they were not cooperating with him.

The officers said that the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, does not provide for the mayor to make any decision on his own.

This is generally done by a majority of councillors via statutory meetings, a press release signed by the officers stated.

The statement added that there has always been a strong and demonstrative collective desire on the part of officers to provide a more qualitative and quantitative service to the citizens of Georgetown.

Collymore told the Chronicle he had indicated to the mayor that he cannot deal with the two matters at the same time.

He said he could proceed to conduct an inquiry only after the Auditor General completes his report on the alleged irregularities.

"The mayor has a problem, he wants things done (like) yesterday, and it is an (act of) indiscipline to do that (the other inquiry) while (one is in progress). And I am not going to fall for that."

"I cannot tell the Auditor General to speed up the inquiry", the minister declared.

He said he had indicated to the mayor that the council will have to agree to have the officers disciplined and then he will address the matter but Green had not replied.

Collymore feels the mayor will not get the resolution of such a magnitude passed by the council.

He added that the council must be able to deal with its problems and only when a situation arises with which it cannot deal, would the ministry intervene.