Severe pressure has been mounting from various sections of society for the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government to launch a forensic probe into the operations of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC). At least one top official from the newly-installed Council, Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan, has already expressed his desire to see a forensic audit carried out into the operations of the body saying that it was necessary for such a move.Over the past few months, there have been several letter writers, commentators and politicians calling for the Government to carry out the audit in the interest of ensuring transparency and accountability in relation to the operations of the Council. However, so far the Government has not budged; in fact, the President and his Communities Minister have largely remained silent on the issue.The Administration cannot simply dismiss these concerns or provide excuses as to why a forensic audit cannot be carried out. Not only is this unacceptable but it raises questions as to whether the Government is really serious about addressing corruption on all fronts. It could be recalled that while on the campaign trail, APNU/AFC made several promises to ensure there were transparency and accountability at every level of governance.Further, many are of the view that given the Government’s keen interest in carrying out forensic audits into several State agencies regarding their operation, more particularly during the tenure of the previous Administration, and considering the many public calls for transparency and accountability in every sector, the Georgetown City Council should by all means be included in the audits.Not so long ago, in collaboration with the M&CC, the APNU/AFC Government had embarked on a massive city-wide cleanup campaign in Georgetown and its environs. While these efforts produced fairly good results regarding the general appearance of the city and its environs, the political Opposition and other stakeholders have raised questions in relation to the contracts awarded to carry out the works, as the perception is that friends and party supporters were the main beneficiaries. To date, the relevant officials have not been very forthcoming regarding questions from the media in relation to the sums expended and the beneficiaries of the contracts.Also, the mere fact that millions of taxpayers’ dollars are regularly used to bail out the city from its financial woes is another reason for the Administration to act in the public’s interest. The Government certainly cannot keep pumping tax dollars into the operations of City Hall without putting the necessary safeguards in place to ensure that public monies are accounted for.We had stated before that there is much to be explained by past officials who were tasked with managing the affairs of the Council. For example, it is believed that millions of dollars in taxes for certain individuals were written off by the previous Council. There are also claims being made of breaches of the environmental and city bylaws resulting in serious drainage, sewerage and parking problems; the failure of the City Treasurer to collect millions of dollars in outstanding taxes; and the feckless overstaffing among other issues.One letter writer has stated that the need for a forensic audit has never been greater and must be the first order of business of the new Council with the findings being made public, which will undoubtedly identify many instances in which that entity has violated the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act of Guyana. The audit must, first of all, seek to examine the tax collecting system to determine if the allegations of dishonesty, deficiency, and discrepancies have any merit.The citizens of Georgetown are anxious to know the truth about the financial operations, alleged mismanagement and excesses that may have taken place at City Hall during the previous leadership.The Government must act in the interest of the citizens and move on with the forensic audit. Failure to do so would give substance to the many criticisms being levelled against the Government that it is very selective in the manner in which it addresses issues of transparency and accountability.
Why no audit of City Council?