City Hall CoI…financial records missingBy Rupadai SeenaraineTales of City Hall’s mismanagement of funds and unaccountability continued on Monday as the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) heard that over $70 million was unaccounted for from the city restoration fund, while there were no financial records for the years 2006 to 2011.This is according to the finance records from the Audit Office of Guyana, which were presented by the Audit Manager, Dhanraj Persaud at the Critchlow Labour College on Woolford Avenue, Georgetown at the CoI chaired by retired Justice Cecil Kennard.As he delved into the matter, Persaud showed that Central Government through the Communities Ministry had supplied funds for city restoration projects in the sum of $300 million in 2015 and in 2016; another $200 million was injected into the initiative, for a total of $500 million.However, when checks were made into the expenditure of these projects over $70.489 million was unaccounted for.“For 2016, Council did not produce evidence to account for amount totallingAudit Manager Dhanraj Persaud$70.489 million,” he said.It was related the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has a history of failing to source records in the past. Initially, a financial statement is composed by the City Treasurer and the records would be signed by the Town Clerk. It is then submitted to the auditing body for recommendations after which the response of the client is incorporated and the report is finalised.So far, the pending report has not been confirmed since the report was not prepared in accordance with the stipulated requirements of the Audit Office in regard to the format and acceptable standards., Town Clerk Royston King was so notified via a letter on June 30 and was required to respond within 30 days in accordance with the Audit Act of 2004.“The Town Clerk would be ultimately responsible for the presentation of the record. These monies would’ve been given by Central Government and so findings of this report would be present in the Auditor General’s Report that is presented in Parliament. This is where the Council through the Ministry of Communities will have to answer. The findings will be incorporated into the final report of the Auditor General,” the Audit Manager testified.Missing recordsIn the course of six years, from 2006 to 2011, there have been no financial records for the disbursement of monies at City Hall. Additionally, for the year 2005, documents were submitted but an audit could not be completed because the files were “damaged”.The Audit Manager stood before the Commission as he explained what was relayed to them by the Council, adding that the organisation would have enquired about the absence of the report, but no explanation was given. In 2012, records were also damaged, but from 2013 to 2015, some files were presented for auditing, which they were able to inspect and thereby extract information.When asked by the Commission to give his comments on whether or not the Council has been managed according to sound financial procedures, Persaud indicated that it would be considered as a “disclaimer”, later adding that it was the “worst opinion”.“If we have financial statements that aren’t presented in accordance to those that are in general accepted principles, our opinion on those statements will be aCity Halldisclaimer. A disclaimer meaning that we cannot provide an opinion on the state of affairs of the Council. We would be unable to because we didn’t have documents and that is the worst opinion you can get,” said Persaud.He further mentioned, “We were still unable to verify significant items in the financial statements and so we’d have to provide what you call a qualification, meaning we could not verify these figures.”As he underscored the importance of audits, it was related that, “Audited financial reports or financial statements give a representation on the state of affairs of an entity and as such, stakeholders want to know the state of affairs of that particular entity. In the absence of financial statements, key stakeholders would be unable to make informed decisions.”The CoI into City Hall comes at a time when numerous complaints were made by staffers of the Council and other agencies, regarding the expenditure and decisions which were taken by the Council. Consequently, actions were taken by the Local Government Commission to probe the operations at City Hall with the Commission being represented by Sherwin Benjamin and Everton Singh-Lammy.On September 21, 2018 the Town Clerk was instructed to proceed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.