A row over a laptop from a non-existent company has pitted Mayor Hamilton Green and the IT department against Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and councillor Junior Garret and the treasurer is reportedly to take responsibility for the matter.
Chase-Green said yesterday that there are serious administrative flaws in the city’s financial systems, while Councillor and acting Chairman of the Financial Committee Garret said that he was only doing his job when he signed the voucher for the purchase of a laptop computer.
Garret said that “as chairman acting of the Finance Committee my sole purpose is to sign vouchers that are presented to me by the administration, the administration should ensure that the vouchers have the necessary supporting documentation which is purchase orders, purchase requisitions and three quotes and in this case there were those documents the requirements were all met.”
Garret came under heavy criticism from Mayor Hamilton Green and Head of the Information Technology Department Waynewright Orderson for the purchase of a laptop costing some $120,000.
At a press conference in her office Chase-Green said that it is unfair for anyone to be pointing fingers at Councillor Garret for any wrongdoing.
She added: ”I want to say that those who are pointing fingers at Councillor Garret for any alleged corruption or mismanagement of the finances of council should look back and see how many fingers are being pointed to them.”
The deputy mayor said that it is because of their involvement in the laptop fiasco that the auditors from the Auditor General’s Office have been looking into the council’s finances and they are bound to find major discrepancies. Noting that they are trying their best to bring some kind of order to the Finance Department, she said it is very sad because it was taken to this level in the public domain.
Garret said that since he started signing vouchers in December 2011 there were several discrepancies which were discovered and the supporting documents were submitted to the mayor but after a discussion nothing was done to address them.
Those discrepancies included $7,986,000 vouchers paid without any signatures from the finance department, while preferential treatment was given to some contactors.
In addition, there have been cases of misuse of the council’s scarce financial resources, and diversion from the established tendering process and non-receipt of documents for the final preparation of the budget of 2012.
He also noted that there was an advance voucher for $14M, of which $7M is to be paid to a company named Peoples Pay without the necessary supporting documents as it relates to the three quotes and it did not pass through the tender process. The only documentation that came with that voucher is a recommendation from the IT manager to purchase this system software.
He added that the council already has such software that was given to them some two years ago by Keith Burrowes. However, he said Orderson refused to introduce that software into the system and there is a lack of financing because only one computer can be accessed.
He said that “the voucher is to be perused and I refused to sign that voucher and that is one of the reasons why my character is being tarnished.”
He added that another voucher for the acquisition of computer equipment valued $1.5M came from Orderson and the cheques were also collected by him. They were signed by one person from the Finance Committee and the voucher was not certified nor entered into the system.
Chase-Greene told reporters that the reason she called the press conference was to give clarity with respect to the issue raised by Mayor Green regarding the purchase of the laptop, and she was aware of the matter some three weeks ago when she was shown the signed voucher by the mayor.
She added that she saw nothing wrong with the voucher because for any item to be bought and cheques to be made out, by law before the Town Clerk and Treasurer can proceed to sign cheques there must be two signatories.
In this instance, she said, when Councillor Garret signed that voucher somewhere along the line it went to Mayor Green and not to the other signatory.
She said “I was told later by the Treasurer when I enquired that he (Treasurer) will be taking full responsibility for the purchase of the laptop because he was the one involved in having it acquired.”
The deputy mayor said that someone or more than one person intend to discredit a qualified accountant and councillor (Garret).
Meanwhile, Garret said that he sees the matter as an attack on him because of the upcoming Financial Committee elections which are expected to be held at the next statutory meeting and Green is also vying for the position of head.
The deputy mayor added that any statements emanating from the Office of the MCC should go through the Public Relations Department and not an officer.
She said she was alarmed when she heard officers voicing their concerns about standard operating procedures not being met and the tendering process not being carried out for the acquisition of the laptop.
She said, “I listened to the news last night I heard officers talking about standard operational procedures not being met and the tender process not being carried out. I was somewhat alarmed, I would like the Town Clerk to say to me when last was the tender process done in the City of Georgetown by the Mayor and City Council.”
Chase-Green said that the entire issue is being blown out of proportion, and since Garret presented his budget the council is going to see a better way and better development because things will be done now according to standard operational procedures.
She added that she was upset that officers would run to the press with statements and remarks about things not being done in the correct way when the same department (IT) was recently in a ‘tug o war’ for payment of $14M for a signed contract that did not go out for tender.
She said that persons involved in the scandal and defamation of Garret ought to put their energy into the city of Georgetown to ensure that it is kept in an environmentally clean condition and that they can live comfortably.
Garret maintained that he signed the voucher because it was a request by the Finance Department and it was a matter of urgency to conclude the budget and when he signed that voucher his responsibility ceased there.
The councillor said “It is not my responsibility to know where the laptop came from and who the owner is and how old it is. I expect the administration to do that kind of work before they bring that voucher to me.”
Responding to the fact that the second signature was not on the voucher Garret said that it is not his responsibility to ensure that the second signature is on the voucher as that is the responsibility of the administration.
Garret said further that “someone or persons are trying to squander the funds of council and deliberate efforts are being made to ensure the budget review and the systems presently in place do not work but I want to show you that we have committed councillors who want to see the development of the city and we would ensure that we work assiduously to weed out all the corrupt officials from the top down.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Anthony Boyce said that as a member of the Finance Committee he was given a document that was addressed to a foreign company, Westham Trade, to look at but while examining that voucher he noticed that it was written out for office equipment but the details indicated only computer parts.
He said that he is still wondering how office equipment can become computer parts and how $1.5M could be required to repair one system which can be acquired for around $250,000.