In an emergency sitting of the Portmore Municipality with Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Local Government, Robert Montague on Thursday, a number of allegations regarding financial irregularities dominated the meeting
Documentation presented at the meeting by the Minister revealed a series of “missing cheques” from the Council’s account as well as attempts to encash four cheques totalling more than 4.5million dollars.
Evidence also presented, indicated that at least one contractor who was hired to carry out rehabilitation works presented a false Taxpayers Registration Number (TRN) and was paid despite this anomaly.
Presented with a list of names of contractors who have been paid and alleged to have carried out drain-cleaning and other works in various divisions within the Municipality, most councillors denied knowledge of the ‘ghost contractor’ or the work being undertaken.
Another issue of concern raised was the case of the missing “20 container shops” once utilized by entrepreneurs in the Gregory Park and environs of Portmore which were seized in a cease-and-desist operation by the Council. It is alleged that the container shops cannot be accounted for as they were deemed to have been ‘sold’ shortly after seizure. The question of a missing fogging machine also dominated the meeting on the purchase, loan and subsequent return of same.
In his response to the allegations, Minister Montague has charged both the council, and its administrative head to immediately conduct a probe into the allegations and call in the fraud squad where corroboration shows that there is evidence of fraudulent conduct on the part of any councillor or employee.
In addition, he has called on councillors to be more vigilant in the monitoring of their allocation and reminded them to “check your ledger accounts” individually to ensure you are aware of how your allocations are being spent.”
He also reminded the Council that the Auditor General’s report of the Municipality over time has not been a complimentary one and therefore more stringent measures of accountability should be reinforced to ensure checks and balances in the system of fiduciary management.
He warned Councillors not to allow the Council to be dissolved, as its actions were indicating that it was not managing the affairs of the municipality in the best interest of the citizens whom it serves.
Minister Montague implored both the political directorate and the administrative staff of Council to work together for the common good of its communities.
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