Wed | Aug 4, 2021

Get your house in order – Holness

Municipal corporations warned on audits as St Catherine CEO weighed and found wanting

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Juliet Holnes, PAC member, said that failure to prepare for audits cemented the perception that municipal corporations were easy pickings for fraudsters.
Juliet Holnes, PAC member, said that failure to prepare for audits cemented the perception that municipal corporations were easy pickings for fraudsters.

With the massive $400-million fraud at the Manchester Municipal Corporation that led to the conviction of several persons still fresh in the minds of many Jamaicans, St Andrew East Rural Member of Parliament Juliet Holness is warning local authorities whose financial records are in shambles to get their houses in order.

Holness, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), charged on Tuesday that focus must be placed on the weak municipal corporations to prevent a recurrence of fraud at these public bodies.

“We must focus on the weak parish councils and they must appreciate that when the auditor general comes in, she is coming in for an audit and you must be ready,” she declared, as St Catherine Municipal Corporation (SCMC) officials, who appeared before the committee on Tuesday, did not have its financial statements up to date.

Holness said there was the perception that it was far easier to steal from the municipal corporations than from central government.

“If your records are not up to date and you cannot be audited, you are cementing that perception. We don’t want that,” she said.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis told Andre Griffiths, chief executive officer of the SCMC, that draft financial statements issued for 2019 and 2020 were not sufficient to audit the agency.

She said that the schedule to support the financial statements was not ready and that the AuGD could not undertake the audit.

The country’s chief auditor advised members of the oversight committee that with the support of the World Bank her department had embarked on a project to bring many of the municipal corporations up to date with their records.

Some 22 financial statements have been outsourced under the initiative.

Monroe Ellis said that the SCMC was included in the project but had to be pulled from it because its records were not available.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com