The Linden Town Council was described as a “rogue municipality” by a Member of Parliament yesterday after its Treasurer admitted that the Council has “issues following procedure” in spending its subvention from the Central Government.
The revelation was met with laughter from the sitting Public Accounts Committee (PAC) but Municipal Treasurer of Linden Audrey Nelson explained that the Council had to be advised on occasion to spend money within the ambit of the ministry’s programme.
“It’s another rogue council,” Member of Parliament Juan Edghill concluded, referring to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, whose accounts had also come under scrutiny during yesterday’s hearing at the Parliament Chamber.
At the beginning of the questioning, Edghill had observed that the Linden municipality seemed to have had “trouble” spending the money disbursed to it in 2016.
According to the 2016 Auditor General’s report, the Council had received $16 million from the Ministry of Communities but only a total of $3.198 million was spent, leaving a balance of $12.802 million.
It stated that the money which was unspent was intended to be used for the rehabilitation of Verlin Brittlebank Day Care Centre, the extension of the cemetery, rehabilitation of perimeter drains, rehabilitation of markets, patching of roads, rehabilitation of Wismar Day Care Centre, construction & relocation of huts, bus parks, desilting of drains & culverts and the purchase of a Bedford truck.
“…Remember, with the subvention programme… we have to spend the money within the ambits of the programme. They had wanted us to go outside of the programme… they wanted to spend the money without the work programme. They wanted to spend the money without approval from the ministry. So that is how we end up with the $12 million balance that is intact,” Nelson explained, while agreeing that she had advised the council of the proper procedures to be taken and that a change of programme would be needed.
“So, you were having a difficulty with your decision makers and how you administer the council finances in keeping with financial rules?” asked Edghill.
“Not 100%… maybe it was by the time they had gone in the office. It was their first year. Although we tried to tell them that this is the process, they still want us to go outside of it. Because, remember, they command organisations, so they tried to say we can do it the same way we do it outside. But with the programme from the ministry, I tried to tell them you need to stay within the ambits of the programme,” Nelson related.
She noted that the $12 million is currently in the Council’s special account, for which she and the Town Clerk are signatories. Nelson denied spending any monies without authorisation from the ministry although she was requested to do so.
Chairman of the PAC Irfaan Ali credited Nelson for her candour on the issue.
“When you deal with issues in a very frank, open and honest manner like this, you make the work of PAC very easy…she’s dealing with a rogue Council that don’t want to follow any rules. I want you to maintain that position as the accounting officer; that rules, procedures and the law must be followed because at the end of the day, you are the one who’s responsible,” Ali stated.
In December, Waneka Arrindell, who served as Deputy Mayor of Linden for two years, was elected the Mayor of the mining town.