The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development acknowledges the report of the Office of the Contractor General in regards to the Special Statutory Investigation – concerning the building of shops at the Spalding Market. The Ministry, however, had conducted its own investigations and a report was completed in June 2013. The Ministry took the informed decision to delay the publication of its findings, so as to not, in any way, interfere with the investigations of the Contractor General. Though thorough in its investigations, the Ministry did not have access to some files as these were already requisitioned by and in the custody of the Contractor General. We duly want to note the areas of overlap between our own recommendations and those of the Contractor General.
1. The Ministry’s investigation unearthed breaches and critical issues relating to governance, financial management and accountability. In this regard the recommendation is for all members of Council to be more vigilant, proactive and rigorous in their approach and attitude towards Council business.
2. The employment of internal control measures to ensure full compliance with the guidelines and laws which currently exist in keeping with the Contractor General’s recommendation for the development of an accountability framework.
3. Rigorous monitoring and inspections with the emphasis on increasing the frequency and intensity of special audits in the Local authority. Specifically, the Ministry has recommended a forensic audit of the Clarendon Parish Council while the Contractor General has referred the matter to the Auditor General to conduct a review of the operations of the Clarendon Parish Council.
4. A more coordinated approach and plan in implementing projects which involve other agencies, programs and stakeholders including the citizens and Members of Parliament. Implicit in this would be recognition of the separation of the role of Council and the Member of Parliament.
5. Observation of dereliction of duty on the part of officers of the Council.
Since completing the report, the Ministry has taken the following actions in an effort to efficiently implement the recommendations contained therein:
1. The Ministry’s internal Audit Unit is currently undertaking a special audit in the Clarendon Parish Council.
2. The matter has been referred to the Financial Investigations Division for a forensic audit to be conducted.
3. We have taken steps to establish an audit network to review accounting and audit practices, and make recommendations to the Local Authorities.
4. Identification and prioritization of accounting, audit and specialized technical services as shared services for implementation in the Local Authorities as is proposed in the policy governing the Strategic Laws.
5. The report has also been formally referred to the Office of the Contractor General, the Parish Councils Services Commission, the Auditor General’s Department and the Attorney General’s Chambers.
The Ministry also takes note of the Office of the Contractor General’s additional recommendations and is working to implement such:
· Recommendation for an accountability framework;
· Disciplinary action against officers of the Clarendon Parish Council;
· Recovery of the cost of electricity;
· Review by the Auditor General of Financial Operations, Accounting Systems and practices of the Clarendon Parish Council.
With respect to the Referrals to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions we await the outcome.