For the second year, Auditor General Deodat Sharma has raised concerns about the quality of the accounting at City Hall.
In his 2016 Report, Sharma noted that the Ministry of Communities had budgeted $200 million for Georgetown restoration initiatives, which, according to the Appropriation Account, was spent at December 31, 2016.
However, on December 22, 2016, the Mayor and City Council submitted a report on capital works with expenditure amounting to $173.505 million, $26.495 million less.
Specifically, $173.505 million was spent on five projects and $42.123 million for the purchase of office equipment and furniture. The five projects covered by the allocation were the Kitty Market reconstruction, for which $60 million was spent; the Constabulary Training School, on which $23 million was spent; the City Engineer’s building, on which $13 million was spent; the Constabulary Building (headquarters), on which $12 million was spent; and the Albouystown clinic, on which $21 million was spent.
“Although some of the capital projects were completed, contract documents and the related payment vouchers were still not presented for audit examination,” the report added.
In fact, of the nine municipalities, Georgetown is the only one which failed to submit an accounting of how its $24 million subvention under the Fiscal Transfers Act was spent.
“The Georgetown City Council for the year under review received $24 million from the Ministry of Communities by way of two payments. However, the City Council failed to submit a status report or details on the Subvention received. The financial statements of the Council are subject to separate financial reporting and audit. However, at the time of reporting, financial statements were not submitted for the year 2016,” the report states.
In the 2015 report, the Auditor General had raised concerns about the manner in which the administration of Georgetown spent a $300 million government subvention also for restoration initiatives, for environmental improvement and improved health and well-being. $6.2 million of the sum was spent on the purchase of a double cab pickup for the City Constabulary, $52.163 million for the de-bushing of the Le Repentir Cemetery and $241.637 million for the restoration of Georgetown.
According to Sharma, the basis of the award of several contracts for the weeding of parapets, desilting of drains and cutting down trees in various areas around Georgetown could not be determined due to the unavailability of supporting documents. As a result, it could not be determined whether proper transparency and accountability were exercised in the awarding of the contracts.
The audit office, having examined 212 payment vouchers, pinpointed discrepancies, including 167 instances where there was no evidence of the vouchers being certified by the accountant or any other authorised officer; 140 vouchers totalling $143.683 million which had not been approved by the treasurer; and 58 payments totaling $48.404 million which had not been approved by the Finance Committee.
Additionally, there was no evidence of receipt or payee acknowledgement for a payment of $750,000 to a contractor.
This issue remains unresolved as of September, 2017, with Permanent Secretary Emile McGarrell recorded as having told the Auditor General that an investigation is underway.
The Audit Office has again recommended that the ministry ensure that the Council locate all contracts and related documentation and capital items purchased and inform the Audit Office in order to facilitate audit verification.