MAYOR OF Mandeville Donovan Mitchell said the Manchester Municipal Corporation is not daunted by the negative labels that have been ascribed to the corporation since three of its former employees were found guilty, following a $400-million fraud trial.
After an approximately nine-month long trial in the Manchester Parish Court, Senior Judge Ann-Marie Grainger found former superintendent of roads and works Sanja Elliott; former secretary/manager and director of finance David Harris; and former temporary works overseer Kendale Roberts guilty.
Additionally, two co-accused, the wife of Elliott, Tasha-Gaye, Goulbourne Elliott and carpenter Dwayne Sibbles were also found guilty.
“It happens everywhere. In government, if one politician is found guilty of something or is found to be corrupt, they say every politician is corrupt. In church, if pastor or church member behaves badly, people say only hypocrites go there, and it is that sort of society that one lives in. The staff is not daunted,” said Mitchell.
CHANCE TO APPEAL
Amid what is deemed the biggest corruption scandal in local government, Mitchell said though the guilty verdict has been handed down, the system of justice in Jamaica gives defendants an opportunity to appeal.
“Up until that day (of appeal), people will continue to say a number of things. The staff is OK because they understand. We are not daunted because it is not the entire staff that was involved or went before the court, it was just three persons that worked at the parish council,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell, who took over the reins of the corporation approximately five months after the investigations began in 2016, said he has since implemented systems to remedy the old mode of operation.
“I had my meeting with the accounting team and then secretary/manager, and all things were put in place as we realised there were some flaws in the system where persons could start a bill or do the processing of a cheque from start to finish; that has changed,” he noted.
However, he said persons can always find a way to outsmart systems implemented for checks and balances, which is why proper conduct should be a matter of integrity.
“There is really no perfect system so we have to continue to monitor and do what is right. Workers or persons (need) to understand that they are there to work and not corrupt the system. Corruption is something I don’t condone. We are dealing with the people’s money and one must know. If you sign up for a job and the salary is not what it is (you want), then you have the choice to leave the job.”
Mitchell said the corporation is audited at least twice per year and he is confident in the systems that are now in place to prevent any possible reoccurrence.
When questioned about his level of satisfaction with methods of the investigators, Mitchell revealed that there is still a lot he knows nothing about, but trusts that the investigators did what they were mandated to.
“I have not seen the details. I keep hearing figures. From where I sit in the council, I have not seen a document that says at the end of X year the council lost $400 million. The investigators, who I think are trained and understand how to do their investigations, did so in the best way possible,” he noted.