Chief Councillor George Cornish of Central Abaco held a joint meeting on January 7, 2016, of the Central Abaco Council, the three township committees and the statutory boards. It was held in the Prime Minister’s conference room at the government complex with only few attending. They were introduced to Administrator Charles Moss, Central Abaco’s newly appointed senior administrator.
Mr. Moss spoke briefly to the Central Abaco District Council, which is the country’s largest local government district, both in activity and financial matters. He emphasized that the business affairs of local government must be conducted according to accepted business and government standards. He looked forward to working with the various boards, committees, and councils in his district.
Chief Councillor Cornish brought the group up to date on a recent audit of local government accounting and office procedures by the Auditor General’s office. Many deficiencies were brought to Mr. Cornish’s attention which he presented at the meeting. A partial list included the following:
- Minutes were not always signed and not always submitted to the Minister for Local Government.
- A calendar of scheduled meetings is not maintained.
- No record is kept of meetings not held or rescheduled.
- Unified check register was not maintained.
- Contracts exceeding $1,000 are required to have three bids.
- If the lowest bid is not accepted, justification must be given for its rejection.
- Contracts exceeding $2,000 must be approved by the Tenders Review Board in Nassau.
It was stressed that a clear paper trail must exist between the initial authorization of contracts or jobs given and the final stage of payment being properly made. This trail must include casual purchases at hardware stores and other shops or the hiring of repair persons. Payments can be accepted only by the person being paid or to others on written authorization by that person. Checks issued to a company or business must be made payable to that business, and a register must be kept showing who accepted the payment. Other irregularities were given with references to the correct procedure.
Questions were asked on how the VAT revenue scheme applies to contracts issued and payments made by local government. There were no answers to these questions. Most financial matters by local government are to persons and companies with less than $100,000 in annual revenue and therefore believed to be exempt from VAT. This will be looked into and answers given at the next monthly meeting.
Extensive discussions centered on government’s new online procedure for issuing business licenses without any consultation with local communities. Apparently the online computer program does not consider neighbouring schools, day-care centers, churches and established residential areas as reasons to deny a business license application. This topic will be brought to central government’s attention as an urgent matter.