Auditor General (AG), Deodat Sharma on Monday disclosed that another forensic audit will be carried out at City Hall, and this time around, approaches will be made to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) if City Hall fails to account for its finances.
This revelation came during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) held yesterday.
Sharma became frustrated after the Accounting Officer, who was acting in place of the absent Treasurer of the Georgetown Municipality, was unable to provide the necessary answers with regards to City Hall’s finances.
Moreover, even the Permanent Secretary (PS) attached to the Ministry of Communities, Emil McGarrel complained of City Hall’s lack of cooperation.
“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 told media operatives.
The DPP is usually called in when advice on criminal charges is being sought.
The PAC met in the National Assembly on Monday, when McGarrell and accounting officers from various municipalities were made to give account for some $401 million in capital subventions.
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.
PAC Chairman Irfaan Ali questioned McGarrell on whether he had come with copies of meetings pertaining to the City Council’s financial statements, documents previously promised by the Georgetown municipality’s Treasurer.
McGarrell had not walked with such and he revealed that the Treasurer, Ron McAlmont, had been unable to attend because of a doctor’s appointment.
When asked by committee member Juan Edghill whether there was anyone else who could supply that information, the Permanent Secretary indicated that only the Deputy Treasurer was available. Edghill then ordered McGarrell to send someone to fetch the Deputy Treasurer from City Hall, as it was within walking distance.
However, when he appeared, City Hall’s Deputy Treasurer John Douglas was no wiser when it came to the city’s finances.
Douglas then admitted that he was not present at the PAC hearings last year but that he was aware of the documents that were supposed to be provided. Even though he was aware, however, he had not come with the documents.
He made promises to supply the requested paperwork by today (Tuesday).
Last year, the AG’s attempts to conduct an audit were stymied by documents not being provided. According to Sharma at the time, there were a number of gaps that remained unfilled in the investigation.
He had noted that as a result of these missing and sometimes even damaged documents, there would be a number of pages in the final report that would carry disclaimers.
It was at one time reported that during the final phase of the audit, the probe was stalled due to this lack of cooperation. Things had reportedly reached a point necessitating a letter to be sent to Town Clerk Royston King, over the undue delays being caused by City Hall officials not making the necessary documents available for the auditors.
Over the years, there have been persistent calls for City Hall to be fully audited.