With the Local Government Elections (LGE) now over, Chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran has called for there to be a greater focus on improving the reprehensible state of financial accountability within Local Government Bodies. To underscore this urgency of his request, Goolsarran referenced a 2021 report from the Audit Office of Guyana states that nine out of 10 municipalities have outstanding audits covering a combined 105 years. In his column called “Accountability Watch” in the Stabroek News, Goolsarran said this state of affairs ought to be a priority for the new elected office holders.
He was keen to note that Section 177 of the Municipal and District Councils Act states that all accounts of Municipal and District Councils in Guyana are required to be prepared within four months after the end of each year and audited thereafter. The responsibility for preparing the annual financial statements lies with the Treasurer, who can be held guilty of an offence if found to be neglecting this duty. Notably, the Auditor General is the appointed external auditor for all Local Government Bodies.
With this in mind, Goolsarran pointed out that the 2021 Auditor General’s report highlights alarming deficiencies in financial accountability within these bodies. **In fact, Goolsarran said nine out of 10 municipalities had a combined total of 105 years of outstanding audits.** Goolsarran noted that the Corriverton Town Council accounts were in such a disarray that disclaimers of opinion were issued for the eleven sets of accounts covering the period from 2002 to 2012.
Moreover, Goolsarran said a significant number of Neighborhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) failed to submit financial statements for audit, with 40 NDCs not presenting financial statements for the years 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Goolsarran also highlighted the role of the Auditor General’s office in ensuring timely audits and certification of submitted accounts. He contended that the Auditor General should compile an annual report to the National Assembly, including a list of the 80 local government bodies and their status of financial reporting and audit. This information he posited would enable the Assembly and the public to identify entities that are not fulfilling their financial stewardship responsibilities.
Furthermore, Goolsarran called on parliamentarians to demand proper and timely financial accountability from Local Government Bodies before approving new resource allocations. He believes that the allocation of public resources to these entities via the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure necessitates rigorous oversight to discourage the continuation of the present undesirable practices.