City Hall runs from criminal charges

first_img2016 Audit Report…succumbs to Auditor General’s threats…finds, submits previously ‘missing’ documentsAfter the last Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting, Guyana Times had reported the Auditor General’s intention to seek criminal charges if the withholding of vital information continued. It has now been revealed that City Council, in an about-turn, is cooperating in this regard.This came to light during the PAC’s considerations of the Audit Office of Guyana’s (AOG) 2016 report on Monday. City Hall Treasurer Ron McAlmont, who was previously absent due to a “doctor’s appointment”, appeared before thePAC Chairman Irfaan AliCommittee.PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali revealed to the chambers that a number of documents, including vouchers and records Auditor General Deodat Sharma was originally unable to get, had been handed over. Ali further informed the meeting that the Auditor General has requested two months to comprehensively review the new information.The matter did not end there, however, as PAC member Juan Edghill was unwilling to let City Hall off the hook so easily. He demanded to know from the Treasurer why City Hall could not provide the information in the first place.“We’re examining the audit report of 2016. We are in March of 2018. The Ministry of Communities’ principal accounting officer (Permanent Secretary Emil McGarrell) and the City Treasurer had ample opportunity before the finalising of the Auditor General’s Report, which was submitted at the ending of September 2017, to provide information to the Auditor General. That information was not provided.“Now that there has been a public exposure, all of a sudden the non-cooperation with the Auditor General’s Office has changed. (This) is a good development: thatCity Hall Treasurer Ron McAlmontdocuments are now becoming available. (But) the last time the PAC met we expressed concern about the attitude of non-cooperation. Even the Permanent Secretary said he tried and was not successful. I am not pleased that we will leave the answering of this question to the Auditor General,” Edghill said.Under a barrage of questions, McAlmont resolutely refused to provide an explanation for the delay in handing over information auditors have been after since the initial audit in 2017. His citation of the forthcoming examination of the records by the Audit Office failed to appease an infuriated Edghill, who insisted that the Treasurer be made to account for the documents.“It is unfortunate, as I said Mr Chair, that all the documents were not there, readily available at that time. As we heard, the documents were located and are with the Auditor General for them to continue to do their review,” McAlmont said in response to Edghill.Asked directly by Ali whether he was ever in possession of the documents, the Treasurer related that while the documents were always at City Hall, they were difficult to retrieve. He again expressed regret that the documents were not submitted on time. It is now expected that the PAC will wait for the AG to report on the documents he has received.Non-cooperationAt the previous PAC meeting last month, even McGarrell had complained of lack of cooperation from City Hall. Afterwards, Auditor General Sharma had revealed that another audit would be carried out at the municipality.He had made it clear that approaches would be made to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers this time around, if the intransigence continued.“Normally, in the regulations of the Audit Act it says that when I finish a forensic audit I can send it to the DPP for advice. The Public Accounts Committee was disappointed with the type of information we’re getting. Even the PS says he can’t get the cooperation in terms of the relevant information that he needs,” Sharma had told this publication.The DPP is usually called in when advice on criminal charges is being sought. In the case of City Hall, this will be done if non-cooperation over the supply of records continues.McGarrell and accounting officers from various municipalities are currently being made to give account for some $401 million in capital subventions.There are nine municipalities and 62 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs). The Audit Office of Guyana had found that as at December 31, 2016, $396.5 million was expended. From the start, City Hall’s financial status, how it spent almost $175 million and its failure to submit documentation dating from 2005 posed a challenge to the PAC.last_img read more