A forensic audit is currently underway at City Hall.
Acting Town Clerk Sharon Harry-Munroe announced at yesterday’s statutory council meeting that the audit, which began last week, is continuing with the co-operation of the city administration. It was not stated who is conducting the audit but the Local Government Commission (LGC) had invited the Audit Office to conduct an audit, in keeping with a recommendation following a Commission of Inquiry into the financial operations of the Georgetown council.
Retired judge Cecil Kennard, who led the inquiry, had suggested in his report that a forensic audit be conducted at City Hall by the Audit Office and that criminal charges be laid against defaulting officers if it reveals criminal misconduct.
“Most of the woes of the city are due to mismanagement by officers of the council… If the main management team is incompetent, are we going to keep them in their positions?” Kennard had asked during the handing over of his report to the LGC.
He specifically identified former Town Clerk Royston King as being culpable for the mismanagement of the city’s finances.
King has since been fired from the post of Town Clerk and the LGC has asked the police and the Auditor General to investigate his tenure as chief administrative officer of the council.
Kennard had charged King with gross misconduct, abuse of office, recklessness, and conspiracy, among other things.
The report, submitted on November 30th last year, specifically identified as questionable the manner in which King leased lands and awarded contracts.
Kennard stressed that documents provided “indicated that contracts were awarded to friends and associates of key officials of the council, such as the son of the mayor, the son of the chairman of the Finance Sub-Committee, a friend of the son of the mayor, Ingrid and Brian Chase, who were embroiled in a land saga with the Town Clerk, and friends of the Town Clerk and the Mayor.”
“It is appalling to note that given the financial state of the council, lands were rented to friends of the Town Clerk for far below par value and in some cases for no payment. It is absolute madness that lands were rented to businesses for no payment,” Kennard said.
He also argued that based on a few documents provided, the CoI formed the opinion that the Town Clerk acted outside his scope and in breach of his duties as an officer when he authorised certain payments to be made to contractors without written contracts.
Further, he found that the documents shown to the CoI by the acting City Treasurer indicated that the Town Clerk was reckless in granting leases to several persons for below fair market prices.
One such lease was granted to Quick Shipping for land which was later found to be owned by government’s holding company, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited. Kennard argued that in that case and others, King rented these lands for low or no fees to businessmen.
“This, to my mind, is a fundamental breach of his duty of care for the council, particularly given the state of the council’s finances. This further warrants investigation and I believe the auditors of the State Assets Recovery Agency should be called in to probe further the issuing of leases and contracts to ascertain whether the Town Clerk and other officers are benefiting from perquisites of office,” he stressed.
Attention was also drawn to the fact that the council’s revenue and tax collecting officers were completely unaware of the agreements for the leasing of the council’s reserves and Kennard said it appeared that the Town Clerk operates in isolation of the council and beyond the scope of his Terms of Reference.
“He seemed to be doing the work of the Treasurer, Engineer and Human Resources Manager… It also appears that the Town Clerk’s office does most of the work which is to be carried out by the Treasurer’s Department. The tax collecting officer said that she is not empowered to speak to defaulting taxpayers, the Town Clerk does this function,” Kennard noted.