McKenzie says Hanover PC already implementing audit recommendations

McKenzie says Hanover PC already implementing audit recommendations

Saturday, September 10, 2016

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LOCAL Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says the Hanover Parish Council has already begun implementing recommendations arising from the recent special audit of its operations.

McKenzie told the Jamaica Observer Thursday that the changes already introduced have affected the council’s preparation of contracts and payment to contractors, and also include a listing of all properties owned by the council.

"The ministry has brought in the (current) mayor and the secretary manager, as well as other senior staff and other senior officers on four occasions to discuss these findings and recommendations and their implementation," McKenzie said.

He added that the council has been given a timeline for the implementation of the changes, which is not yet completed.

McKenzie ordered an audit into the operations of the council in May, following reports exposing nepotism and other illegal and corrupt practices at the council.

Contractor General Dirk Harrison said his office’s investigations revealed incidents of gross impropriety, favouritism and other disturbing breaches involving the awarding of Government contracts at the council.

He outlined the alleged breaches in a scathing 176-page report tabled in Parliament in May, stemming from his investigation into the awarding of Government contracts to individuals, including relatives and political affiliates of several councillors as well as disgraced former Mayor of Lucea Shernette Haughton, who was removed from office.

Haughton, who resigned in April 2014, also appeared in court last year and pleaded not guilty to charges that she allegedly handed out contracts to friends and relatives.

Further investigations at the council by the OCG revealed the sale of a 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado to Haughton in 2014. According to the OCG, the method used by the Hanover council to dispose of the vehicle exhibited impropriety and irregularity on the part of its principal accounting officer or secretary manager.

The OCG also reported that it was unable to reconcile "in all instances" the recommendations, contracts and cheques made in favour of the relatives and political affiliates of two other councillors.

According to the report, one of the councillors received approximately $14.8 million for the period March 2012 to April 2014, of which $6.5 million was made payable to his family members and political affiliates. The report said the other councillor received, over the same period, some $13.5 million of which $3 million was made payable to his family members and political affiliates.

The OCG also described the systems at the Hanover Parish Council for the awarding of contracts under $500,000, for works such as drain cleaning and bushing, as "unsatisfactory and unacceptable".

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