Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Minister: corruption cleansing of parish authorities nearing completion

Published:Thursday | April 20, 2017 | 4:00 AMJovan Johnson
Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie making his presentation in Parliament on Wednesday.

Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has told lawmakers that the corruption cleansing in municipal corporations, formerly parish councils, is almost complete, with audits done in 11 of the authorities.

Except that in saying that a comprehensive report would be tabled in Parliament, McKenzie did not tell the members of the House of Representatives yesterday when they would be able to see the findings and progress he said that the authorities have made.

Audits have either not started or been finished in the Portmore, Westmoreland, and Portmore municipal corporations, The Gleaner understands.

McKenzie commended the Trelawny Municipal Corporation for implementing a recommendation, which he did not disclose.

In the past three years, several scandals have hit the local authorities. They have ranged from the supposed misuse of state funds to allegations that councillors have used their power to influence the award of contracts.

Shernette Haughton, a former mayor of Lucea, Hanover, was slapped with criminal charges following a contractor general probe into the award of contracts. Some senior officials at the Manchester Municipal Corporation were charged last year following anti-corruption raids by the security forces.

In the wake of the findings, last year, McKenzie accepted that the image of local authorities was under attack by some of their own and promised to weed out corruption as well as carry out audits and various reforms to improve accountability.

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT 2.0

 

In his Sectoral Debate presentation yesterday, the minister said that the risk-based auditing and training had been under way since August. "We are not just improving local government, we are creating local government 2.0 - a transformational, idea-driven, forward-thinking, problem-solving local government," he said.

The risk-based auditing was added to the roles of internal auditors, he said, to "ensure, through the quarterly reports they are required to submit, that the ministry can be proactive in addressing all compliance matters".

Meanwhile, McKenzie reported that a land-divestment committee has been established in the ministry. The committee is a requirement under the policy framework and procedures manual for the divestment of government-owned lands.

The lands, he said, are an important revenue stream for the corporations.

Earlier this year, Norman Scott, mayor of Spanish Town, told a Gleaner forum that the commercial abilities of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation were being affected by the Government not granting permission to lease its lands.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com