City Treasurer blames taxpayers of M&CC financial woes

first_imgActing City Treasurer John Douglas testified before the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Wednesday, after he was subpoenaed to provide documents and a statement into the financial affairs at the Mayor and City Council (M&CC).Douglas has been tasked with the responsibility of handling the financial affairs of the entity since the first quarter of this year after City Treasurer Ron Almont would have withdrawn from his duties for medical reasons.It was in that instance that he blamed taxpayers’ for the lack of funds at City Hall, which has led to billions of dollars in outstanding debts and the Council barely finding funds to pay its employees.The Council would have tried to retrieve some of the monies that were owed by taxpayers and other stakeholders during an amnesty but according to Douglas, it is not something that he would recommend. He believes that a one-on-one consultation should be convened with these stakeholders, so as to decide on aMayor Patricia Chase Greenpayment plan.At that time, the acting City Treasurer sought to point out that there is always a shortfall in their budget, which should not be, adding that the Council is always in a struggle to pay its workers and as such, they have to weigh their options when it comes to paying entities such as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).It was admitted that they do owe their main solid waste collectors a minimal of $150M.As it relates to the auditing, Douglas explained that the lack of information and documents are the main reasons why there hasn’t been accurate and substantial record-keeping of the City Hall’s spending.Irregular paymentsA former accounts manager and current employee at the M&CC also testified about payment procedures at City Hall, noting that irregular payments have been made in the past.The witness, Edwana Miller, told the CoI that there are also instances where steps in the disbursement of monies can be skipped.It was explained that the City Treasurer would prepare the vouchers, which would be sent to the Finance Sub-Committee for approval. After the sum is granted, the Town Clerk and City Treasurer would be the main signatories on the documents and the payments would be made thereafter. This is the standard operation for payments that are above $2000 in value.When asked by the Commission as to whether these steps can be skipped or if the system can be expedited, Miller posited, “Yes, it can… stages can be skipped.”She was also probed into whether irregular payments have been made to which she responded, “The answer to that is yes.”At that time, Miller also explained the importance of having an individual withActing City Treasurer John Douglassuitable qualifications to manage the City Treasury, given the fact that this has not been done in the past. The Deputy Town Clerk, Sharon Harry-Munroe has acted on three occasions while the City Treasurer was on leave.The former accounts manager showed her dissatisfaction with the manner in which revenue and other incomes are being managed by the Council as she said, “If you don’t plan and control your income, your expenses will always be more…”A yearly audit was also recommended along with plans in place to remedy the non-payment of benefits to retired workers. Since the commencement of the Inquiry, many retired employees of the Council have claimed that they were not paid any benefits after paying contributions for many years.Miller would have served in the City Treasury Department for several years and was asked to act as the City Treasurer as of this year. However, she refused the post, stating, “if the document in front of me does not state what it is supposed to state, I will state that it is not right.”After that encounter, she was removed from the department and placed in the Market Department to “overlook a project.” Consequently, it has been almost a year and that project has not yet materialised.Meanwhile, other witnesses have similarly called for accountability and proper supervision of the generated funds, which they believe can only be successfully managed by a suitably qualified individual.In the coming week, Mayor Patricia Chase Green, City Engineer Colvern Venture and Town Clerk Royston King will be summoned before their Commission.Legal Assistant Sherwin Benjamin proceeded to highlight sections of the Municipal and District Councils Act (Chapter 28:01) which speaks to those who may try to evade the CoI after being subpoenaed.The probe is expected to conclude on October 31.last_img read more