… Mayor refuses to commentIn light of the unearthing of four hidden bank accounts at City Hall, Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase Greene has opted to remain mum on the matter. City Hall is being accused of shrouding corruption in many areas of the Council and so the recent finding of the four bank accounts – which were reflected in its financial statements at the statutory meetings – is causing much tension among the Councillors.Councillor Bishram Kuppen has stated that at the first statutory meeting, he perused the report and found the discrepancy. He related that when he questioned the City Treasurer on the matter, he confirmed the accounts.“After a number of attempts, the City Treasurer just blurted it out that there were four additional accounts, and each subsequent statutory meeting, I keep pushing for those additional accounts to be included in the reconciliation of the financial statement. All those accounts should be included,” Kuppen allegedly.When Guyana Times approached Mayor Chase Greene on the issue and questioned her on where the accounts were, she laughed and said “they are at a bank”. However, shortly after she redirected the question to her Town Clerk.“You know what? I’m not the person that can talk to you about this. You should speak to mister King,” she said.Nevertheless, all attempts to contact Town Clerk Royston King proved futile. When this publication called his office early on Tuesday morning, he was in a meeting. Three hours later, when his office was contacted again, this newspaper was told that he had “stepped out.” Another two hours later, when the publication called again, his cellular phone was turned off.This newspaper also made efforts to contact the Public Relations Officer and the City Treasurer on the matter; however, the Treasurer’s Secretary informed this publication that the treasurer was unable to pronounce on the issue, adding that all authorities were warned not to speak with the media on the matter.“All questions should be directed to the PRO or the Mayor,” the Secretary stated.It is unknown how much monies are being stored in these accounts and for what purpose.“This perception is fuelled by the lack of accountability for hundreds of millions of dollars spent on projects with no public tendering, improper financial reporting, four hidden bank accounts which are not included in any financial reports to Councillors, and financial deficits being reported on a consistent basis every month,” Kuppen said while addressing the issue of skullduggery within the Council.Of recent there have been calls for an audit to be conducted into the financial affairs of the Mayor and City Council, since there has not been any audit reports submitted for the past 10 years.Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran had insisted that 10 years of arrears in terms of financial reporting and auditing was not only a “disturbing trend” but also showed that the Council had no interest in bringing the accounts to order.He stated that as of August 2013, the last set of audited accounts of the Council was for 2004 and the Audit Office had received financial statements for the years 2005 and 2007. There is no evidence to suggest that any financial statements were produced for 2006.According to the Municipal and District Councils Act, within four months of the close of the financial year, the City Treasurer is required to prepare and submit to the auditor, financial statements for that year for audit. If the treasurer fails to comply, he/she will be guilty of an offence. It has been over a decade that the M&CC – dominated by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), a main partner in the governing coalition – has failed to make any public presentation of its financial position.
It’s hard to know what’s worse – that hundreds of thousands of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches don’t get them, or that tens of thousands who do get them shouldn’t. While 74 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s 700,000 students could be eligible for subsidized meals for low-income students, only 37percent of those in middle schools and high schools participate. The district receives between $2.07 and $2.47 for each subsidized meal served. But since only about half of the 500,000 students who qualify participate, that amounts to a loss of $100 million a year – funds that could be staving off hunger and providing the basic nutrition that schooling demands. Meanwhile, a recent federal report finds that slightly more than one in five students who received a subsidized lunch last year weren’t, in fact, eligible for the benefit. Nationwide, that fraud amounts to a $935million hit, at least. Compounding the problem is that the federal government uses the number of students receiving subsidized meals to determine how much special funding districts can get for everything from books to teachers. That gives schools little incentive to crack down on fraud. So when school districts such as the LAUSD have needy kids not getting their aid, the districts themselves will lose valuable funding. Meanwhile, wealthier districts stand to get more than they deserve through fraud. The problem is double-edged: To qualify for the meals, parents must fill out forms documenting their income. Some eligible families are too proud, or too uninformed, to do so, and don’t. And some shameless families that don’t need the help take advantage of loopholes and lax enforcement to get a “free” lunch. Under federal law, school districts must verify income levels for only 3percent of the program’s enrollees. For the LAUSD, that means checking up on some 8,000 students – out of roughly a quarter-million each year. Even when families are caught taking advantage of the system, there is no serious consequence. In the LAUSD, they’re no longer allowed to keep getting free or reduced-price meals, but that’s all. There are no easy answers to this problem. The LAUSD is looking at ways to protect the identity of kids getting subsidized meals, so as to reduce the social stigma and encourage more to participate. But it’s hard to know whether that would make a difference – other districts don’t seem to have the same problem with getting their kids to participate. Meanwhile, tougher enforcement measures could help deter fraud, but can also have the effect of deterring eligible families from applying. Still, the amount of money wasted – and the vast extent of needs left unmet – bespeak a compelling need for reform.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!