Guyana – Deeds Registry needs to be digitized -– audit report

Workers inside the Deeds Registry, which still mostly uses a paper-based system

Workers inside the Deeds Registry

Deeds Registry needs to be digitized -– audit report

THERE is great need for the records of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority (DCRA) to be computerized, properly stored, and be backed up, a forensic audit into the operation of the registries has found.The audit, done by D. Bahadur and Company, called on the board of the DCRA to “urgently document its archiving policy” with the aim of having the staff of the two registries adhere strictly to same. In its report, the firm said, “Archiving of documents is important for the efficient and effective performance of the registry function, and can be used as a revenue earner, as indicated above.”   

It was noted that while there may be issues currently affecting the digitization of the documents, those issues need to be addressed urgently. Additionally, it was recommended that an interim progress report of work be done to ensure that the process is done in the required format and be of benefit to the DCRA.

“The Deeds and Commercial Registry should exploit their information database as a marketable resource to generate revenue by charging a fee for information which is available on request,” the report stated.

Additionally, it was recommended that the DCRA should develop a live website with the pertinent information, to make access easier for both stakeholders and shareholders.

“The installation of a computerized function to automatically send a numbered notice to companies and businesses that their registration needs renewal” would be one spin-off benefit.

The archiving and storage of information was difficult because of limitation of space and technology was not embraced earlier. “Both of these limitations are being addressed, an additional building was acquired to house the Commercial Registry, steel density cabinets are to be installed in the various registries, and contracts were awarded to digitize the document of the registries.”

However, pending completion of these works, the major concerns currently are that vital information or documents can get lost or stolen; and in the event of any major disaster, such as fires or floods, vital information or documents can be destroyed or damaged.

“With efficiency and easy retrieval, more persons/companies will rely on the DCRA to provide various information or documents that will generate additional revenue, since on a daily basis reliance is placed on the DCRA to provide certified copies of documents for day-to-day transactions,” the report added.

It is believed that there needs to be a public awareness campaign on the services provided by the Registry, and it was suggested that this be done via the traditional medium of television, newspapers and radio.

A review of the fees charged for services provided must be done as a matter of priority, so that the fees charged and collected are sufficient to cover the basic cost associated with the service required. According to the auditor, the fees currently charged for processing various transactions seem inadequate to cover the required expenses to process the transaction.

The fee for processing trademarks has been given as $200., with the registration of same being valid for seven years.

There is a strong possibility that transports and other conveyances could have the same number, resulting in duplication and thereby compromising the retrieval system, which ultimately leads to incorrect communication of data.

“The Business Index is not computerized at all locations; therefore, to check for a specific business name means manually checking through as much as five large books, which is very time consuming. There is no adequate system in place to easily identify the number of registered businesses in the past, how many need to be renewed or re-registered etc., [and/or] the names that have become available because of non-renewal,” the audit report said.

Equally important is the need for employees of the DCRA to make random visits to businesses, to determine whether they are operating under a business name and whether they have registered to use the said name.

It is believed that the DCRA could be losing revenue due to under-valuation of assets, as revenues are collected on the basis of the valuation of assets. The auditor has recommended that the two bodies work together to bring about improved systems and generate greater revenues.

“The DCRA and the relevant Government agencies, such as the Valuation Office, should collaborate in ensuring that the appropriate valuations are presented for registration (as in the case with the GRA and the Deeds).”

Additionally, the auditing firm believes that the installation of a computerised function to automatically send a numbered notice to GRA and NIS of the formation of a new company is needed, since these agencies can work together to generate greater revenues for each other.

FINANCIAL BOOKS AND RECORDS
The policy of recording revenue on an accrual basis should be changed to cash basis, which is in support of the current recording method, the report stated, noting that bank reconciliations should be prepared and reviewed monthly.

There is a Demerara Bank account in the name of the Deeds and Commercial Registries. However, the funds do not belong to the Registries, the account is an Escrow Account established as a result of court order #173-CD.

“Based on confirmation received from Demerara Bank Ltd and credit advices seen, Bosai Mineral Group Guyana Inc. was depositing both interest and principal loan repayments as per the court order and debenture. The balance on this US$ a/c suggests that the loan has since been repaid, due there being no further deposits to the A/c.”
According to the forensic audit, there is no evidence of any reconciliation being done, neither any monitoring of the account.
It was therefore recommended that the Escrow Account be reconciled and monitored on an ongoing basis.

It is recommended that this matter be brought to the attention of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, since it also involves CLICO.

“The Ministries of Finance and Legal Affairs should be informed of the following for their action in relation to the Escrow Account and Act of Deposit Account: The conditions under which these accounts operate; the balance on the accounts as at the date of the forensic audit; the steps taken by the Deeds to effect a reconciliation of the Act of Deposit Account with the aid of available bank statements and court orders; the results of this exercise; and the unresolved balance on the account; and advise on how to deal with the balance within the legal framework.”

Additionally, it was suggested that the records be digitized to provide greater information, and that information be disclosed in the Auditor General’s Report. A report on the balance and movement of the accounts should be done on a monthly basis to the Board.

INTERNAL AUDITOR AND REGISTRAR OF COMMERCE
D. Bahadur and Company has recommended that the vacancy for an internal auditor be filled immediately to address many of the matters affecting the DCRA, including the missing receipt book that saw a former cashier, Kayren Booker, being fired for fraud.
Booker had utilized a receipt book (sequence # 36751 – 37000) outside of the existing sequence at the time, during the period June – September 2012. The matter was reported to the police and the cashier was dismissed. However, a copy of the police report was not retained by the Deed Registry, nor did the Deeds Registry undertake an internal investigation to establish the amount of funds that went missing. To date, no further investigation has been done regarding this matter, and the amount missing is still undetermined.

“The unused receipt books are now being kept in the Registrar’s office for safety, and CCTV has been installed to improve security.”

With the absence of key employees, internal reviews were not done to provide independent assurance that the Authority’s risk management, governance, and internal control processes are operating effectively, the report added.

Additionally, there was a vacancy for a Registrar of Commerce. Currently, Registrar of Deeds Azeena Baksh holds the post of Registrar of Commerce, but the auditor believes that her dual role can result in “work overload and oversight”.

“Additionally, without the appointment of a Registrar of Commerce, various functions of this department can be backlogged; e.g. the registration of trademarks has been significantly delayed, and this may be one of the prime reasons,” the report stated.
A number of other key positions, including Assistant Registrar of Commerce, Field Auditor, Audit Clerk and Stores Clerk have to be filled to reduce inefficiencies at the DCRA.

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