City Hall attempting to account for $173.5M spent in 2016

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By Bibi Khatoon

The Mayor and City Council of Georgetown has handed over several payment vouchers to the Auditor General after one year of claiming that the documents could not be located.

During a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament today, Auditor General Deodat Sharma confirmed that he received the payment vouchers but it will take two months to conduct his investigations which will prove whether the vouchers are sufficient to account for the $173.5M the council received from Central Government in 2016.

The Auditor General disclosed that the council handed over the vouchers on Thursday and Friday last. He noted that “my officers are down there right now checking off these vouchers so I cannot say if we have all or we have not got all.”

At its February 19th meeting, the Public Accounts Committee raised concerns about the council’s inability to account for the monies, however, the Treasurer, Ron McCalmont was not present to answer the questions and the Deputy Treasurer, John Douglas was also left dumbfounded.

The Treasurer turned up today but when asked questions relating to the vouchers, he said those questions will be answered at the end of the Auditors’ investigation.

However, he also apologised for the late submission of the documents.

“It’s unfortunate that all of the documents were not presented at the time when the Auditor General was requesting the audit for that information,” the Treasurer said.

The Auditor General said he learnt the documents were stored in three different locations and this systemic problem was pointed out to Town Clerk, Royston King who is expected to address the issue.

Member of Parliament and PAC Member, Juan Edghill expressed concerns over the spending of $42M on furnishings and asked whether those vouchers were submitted but the Auditor General explained that he will only be certain of this after the investigation is completed.

One other area of contention was raised by PAC member, Nigel Dharamlall who noted that in 140 payment vouchers, $143.6M was spent without the Treasurer’s signature.

However, when asked, the Treasurer refused to offer any comments.

Chairman of the PAC, Irfaan Ali explained that the Auditor General will advise on the way forward as it relates to the unsigned vouchers.

According to the Auditor General’s Report, $200 million was paid to City Hall for the Georgetown Restoration Programme by three vouchers. As at December 31, 2016, the Council reported on capital works having spent GY$173.505 million- GY$131.382 million on five projects and GY$42.123 million for the purchase of office equipment and furniture.

The five projects Kitty Market: GY$60.121 million; Constabulary Training School: GY$23.096 million; City Engineers building: GY$13.594 million, Constabulary Headquarters Building GY$12.921 million and Albouystown Clinic GY$21.580 million.

The PAC has deferred the consideration of City Hall issues to eight weeks from today.

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