PAC flays ministry over neglected local government accounting
The Ministry of Local Government came under fire during yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting for the local democratic organs that have neglected to submit their financial statements to be scrutinised by the Auditor General’s Office for several years.
Around 22 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) have reportedly never been audited and the ministry is blaming the situation on staff shortages and inefficiencies.
According to the Auditor General’s 2010 report, municipalities and NDCs are required make up their yearly accounts no later than four months after the end of each financial year and submit them for auditing in accordance with the Municipal and District Council Act.
However, Auditor General Deodat Sharma said several of the councils were found to be in violation of the legal requirement, rendering them unable to account for the expenditure of millions of taxpayers’ dollars.
In particular, the Georgetown municipality, which has been flagged for financial irregularities recently, had not been audited since 2004, while the NDC for the North West District had not been audited since 1994.
Questions were raised as to whether the financial documents for this NDC as well as its fellow transgressors were still in existence to facilitate an eventual audit.
Local Government Ministry Permanent Secretary (PS) Collin Croal said measures have been put in place to accumulate the financial records for the unaudited years, but he admitted that the ministry is facing serious challenges locating many of them. He also said that through re-prioritising, the ministry is currently engaged in works to regularise the backlog that exists. But not much progress has been made.
It should be noted that in addition to revenue generated through tax collections and other sources, each NDC is granted a $3 million subvention by government to supplement maintenance and other works. The municipalities of Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam, Anna Regina, Corriverton and Rose Hall received $20 million, $10 million, $10 million, $9 million, $8 million, and $8 million, respectively.