A special audit of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC), specifically the 2015 Georgetown Restoration Programme, turned up several irregularities, according to the leaked 2018 Auditor General’s Report, under its review of the operations of the Ministry of Communities. The audit was requested in 2016 by the then Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
The request was made during a meeting held on February 6, 2017, where the audit findings of the Ministry of Communities for the year 2016 were being discussed. The 2015 Georgetown Restoration Programme has cost the treasury nearly a billion dollars since it was initiated.
Among the findings of the audit report are that:
- The Ministry of Communities expended the sum of $6.200M to purchase a Nissan double-cab pick-up. The vehicle was being used by the City Constabulary. However, it was not accounted for in the permanent stores records of the Ministry and Council.
- The correctness, accuracy and validity of the payment of $52.163M made by the Ministry to a contractor for 103.80% variation works on three contracts could not be verified.
- Amounts to talling $241.637M of the allotted amount ($300M) were paid over to the Council.
- Section 43 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) was breached, whereby, the sum of $102.637M was paid over to the Council in 2016 from the 2015 Appropriations.
- A total of 261 Payment Vouchers for expenses totalling $247.558M were submitted. This was $5.921M more than the sum ($241.637M) paid over to the Council.
- Expenditure totalling $182.610M were not certified by the relevant officer.
- The City Treasurer’s approval was not evident on seven Payment Vouchers totalling $8.304M.
- The Finance Committee’s full approval was not evident on 21 Payment Vouchers totalling $30M.
- There was no evidence of acknowledgement from payees for payments totalling $12.816M.
- The correctness, accuracy and validity of five payments totalling $4.890M could not be verified.
- Six payments totalling $15.7M were made on six contracts that were above the $1.5M contract ceiling for the clean-up programme.
- Payments totalling $42M could not be validated in respect of 27 contracts.
- We could not ascertain whether a transparent system was used for the awarding of contracts.
- Twelve contracts totalling $21M were awarded to one contractor, contrary to the apparent stipulated maximum of four contracts to one contractor.
- There were eleven instances that indicated contractors may have provided false addresses to satisfy the criterion of having to reside within the area where the work was to be done.
- Applications were not seen for 25 contracts amounting to $37.500M.
- The Council did not produce evidence to account for amounts totalling $70.489M
- Payroll costs amounting to $30.575M could not be verified
- The receipt of building materials amounting to $30.562M could not be verified The special audit remains incomplete given that the Georgetown Mayor and City Council are yet to respond to the findings communicated on May 31, 2018.
$475.365M Additionally, under the Ministry of Communities, the Audit Office noted that it was still unable to verify the completeness, accuracy and validity of the sum of $475.635M. The said sum was paid by the Ministry in 2017 to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council. The funds were to facilitate payments to contractors for sanitisation services provided to the Council. The report said, “The details of the payments, including the exact periods and description/particulars of services, and its related costs were not provided.
Rather, a summary by contractor and nature of indebtedness was attached to the Payment Vouchers. “…the Audit Office had written to the Council, on 12 July 2018 and (copied to the Ministry), requesting pertinent records to aid verification of the expenditure. The Ministry submitted documents on 18 August 2018 comprising primarily of correspondences written by the contractors to the Ministry seeking payments. However, it was not possible to verify the expenditure from the said documents.”
Accountability and transparency at City Hall, where the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) led APNU+AFC Coalition, has been in charge has been a problem for years.