Regional

Manchester Municipal Corp appoints Revenue Protection Officer

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserevr. com

Sunday, August 06, 2017

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Administrators of the Manchester Municipal Corporation have appointed a Revenue Protection Officer.

Mayor of Mandeville and Chairman of the Corporation, Donovan Mitchell, said that the post was created from a decision taken by the organisation and not the Office of the Services Commissions, which is a secretariat within the Central and Local Government system.

“That's not a Services Commission (position), this is a local position, because we realised that there are some revenues that are slipping that we just need to grab a hold of — (the role) is like a police,” he said.

Mitchell said that it is similar to steps that were implemented at the Jamaica Customs Agency to “watch the revenue, see if there is any pilferage, see what is happening, just to make sure that the revenue comes to the (Corporation).”

He said that the officer, Shevan Mitchell (no relation to mayor) has a military background and will be undertaking other duties at the Corporation, which cannot be disclosed.

The Mayor was speaking to the Jamaica Observer following a recent Central Manchester town hall meeting hosted by his organisation, to get feedback from the public on its proposed budget and strategic plan.

The Corporation's reputation has taken a hard hit since the start of a corruption probe in 2016, by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, the Office of the Contractor General, and the Financial Investigations Division.

It is alleged that employees used their positions to misappropriate funds to enrich themselves and their associates.

The persons charged in the matter so far, including former senior members of the Corporation, are now before the Manchester Parish Court.

Mitchell replaced former Mayor Brenda Ramsay, who has retired from representational politics, in the latter part of last year.

When asked by the Sunday Observer if having a revenue protection officer and a town hall meeting to get public opinion on the budget and strategic plan were ways to ensure transparency going forward in light of the allegations, he said “not really”.

Similar town hall meetings were also held in other constituencies in the parish, and Mitchell said that they were being done in accordance with the requirements of the new Governance Act, passed in 2016, which said that the Corporation's budget and strategic plan must have the input of the people.

In recent months, more persons have been implicated in the probe and are answering to charges; but the mayor said that the mood of employees at the Corporation is mostly calm because they understand that the authorities have a job to do.

He said too that every staff member is aware that business is conducted on a platform of accountability, integrity, and responsibility.

“We are accountable to the people, and must take responsibility for our actions. Whatever is needed to be done to remove any sense of impropriety or anything like that, we are going to do it. They understand that the forces have to do what they have to do. No man is guilty until proven. We understand where we want to go,” he said.

Property taxes, market fees, building approvals, and trade licences are among the revenue streams from which large sums are reportedly being lost across Municipal Corporations, due to non-compliance and inadequate enforcement.

The Manchester Municipal Corporation, based on the current budget being discussed, is aiming to have an intake of approximately $1.7 billion for 2018-2019.

In the pursuit, the mayor said, to acquire all the revenue for the required social services in the parish to be carried out, the position of director of finance is now rebranded chief financial officer and the role is more “strategic”.

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