SEE BELOW STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE MAYOR OF GEORGETOWN UBRAJ NARINE:
Citizens: This is my first official press statement for 2023 on the certain challenges and issues facing the City of Georgetown.
As your Mayor, it is both necessary and important for me to bring to your attention an issue that has been affecting the welfare of citizens, the wellbeing of local communities and the city as a whole.
The issue to which I referred is the crass attitude and worrying action of Central Government against the Georgetown City Council and by extension all citizens, who voted for me and other Councillors to represent your interests, at the local level.
Indeed, Central Government continues to show zero regards to the importance of local government and local democratic organs in this beloved country of ours.
Yet, local government and the establishment and recognition of local democratic organs are pillars upon which a good- intending government would build its democratic credentials and enhance its practice of good governance.
According to PARTII- CONSTITUTION OF COUNCILS, in the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, that the City Council has been established as one body politic and corporate by the Georgetown Town council Ordinance, 1860, by the name and style of “The Mayor and Town Council of Georgetown” and continued by the Georgetown Town Council ordinance 1918, is hereby continues. Encrusted in this constitution are the responsibilities and powers of the city council.
Under section 8 (1) “The City Council shall consist of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and councillors and shall have such functions as are vested in it by or under this act or any other law.”
Nevertheless, the Central Government has been doing all within its powers to show the City Council in a bad light and to give the impression to the public that we are incapable of honouring our statutory obligations as set out in the Act.
One way by which the government is attempting to do this is by rushing to do municipal works in different areas. These include: roads work [construction and repairs], desilting drainage and associate appurtenances, community bridges, cleaning parapets, and repairs to recreational facilities.
However, in its indecent haste to willfully embarrass and wrong the council the government has been making very serious mistakes and missteps that are negatively affecting the lives, and compromising the value of properties of residents in the city.
Whilst, we welcome and appreciate the assistance from Central Government we could not encourage the government to operate as if there is no council, or laws, by- laws and regulations governing the management of the nation’s capital the government is impinging on the authority and powers of the council by overreaching into council area- the area administered by the council.
A few days ago, Charlestown, Albouystown, and other contiguous communities woke up to massive flood waters in their homes and yards. We learnt, after the incident, that the flooding of communities, in that section of the city, was caused by a faulty Koker door at Princess Street.
Subsequently, we heard that Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha had inspected the sluice to determine the cause. [I am not sure about the Minister’s engineering skills or qualifications] But, the Minister, not the City Engineer, inspected that council facility.
According to reports, in certain sections of the media, the Minister said that after speaking with Engineers on the ground, it was revealed that the issues faced at the koker were a result of faulty work by the Contractor. We, the council, learnt, for the first time, that, last August, 2022, Square Commodities signed a contract for just over $11.6 million with the NDIA for the fabrication and installation of a stainless-steel door at the Princess Street Sluice.
The contract was tendered and awarded to the company following a public bidding process in keeping with legal stipulations set out by the Government of Guyana through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
The reports said that Minister Mustapha expressed disappointment. He said situations like these should never occur. Then he went on to state the following:
“We went through a very transparent process with these contracts. The company submitted bids and was awarded the contract based on their submission. Today, when we are having very good weather, people are being affected because of faulty work by the Contractor. The Government is now put in a position to create a solution because we have been entrusted with taking care of the welfare of all citizens of the country. This is the first time we’ve worked with this company, and as Minister, I am very dissatisfied. When we took office, we made it clear that we want everyone to be given a fair chance to work with the Government and receive contracts but if you are not experienced or have experienced people working with you, you may find yourself in a similar situation and we do not take these situations lightly.”
Neither I, as your Mayor, nor your representatives- Councillors- was informed about the award of that contract to Square Commodities and the government’s intent to change that Koker door; It is a council facility. It is wrong and unfair not only to the council but also to all citizens of Georgetown.
If the government really wanted to help, then its approach would have been vastly different from what was obtained in this and similar situations.
Further, if the government had valued the importance of local government as part of good governance and democracy then not only would they have consulted with the Mayor but involved the council in the decision- making process, and the planning stage to change a vital part of a council facility. This was not done. In that context, the action of the government goes against sections of the Act, Chapter 28:01, and basic governmental relations and protocols.
In media reports, on the issue, there was no mention of the Mayor and City Council. The Council was not even accorded the courtesy of being informed. Still, the council is the body that possesses institutional knowledge about the drainage system and roads in Georgetown.
But the government and its operatives have been sidelining the council and pouring money into the pockets of its friends who have little to no experience and knowledge in dealing with the vital municipal facilities.
Another area is roads: the construction of new roads and the repair of existing ones. Freshly done roads are already showing signs of fatigue and deterioration; poor work. In addition, it does appear that the construction of certain roads is compromising drainage in different sections. Imagine the government has constructed a road- Nelson Mandela Avenue to Diamond- without any consultation with the council.
The road runs through the city and has implications for a number of communities in the city, but the municipality was never invited to participate in the planning and execution stages of that project. There is also the attempt by government to establish parking lots [an application for injunction has been filed against this project], building new walk ways and bridges, and the redesigning of avenues under the control and management of the council.
In so far as redesigning these council facilities- avenues- are concerned there are certain environmental problems associated with what the government is doing to our avenues.
We, at the City Council, understand that the government are looking after its supporters by awarding them contracts to do works in areas where the government has no powers to cause works to be done to council facilities.
We are not asking central government for any monies [other than their fair share of taxes and subventions]; we seek respect, fairness and that they respect the Constitution of the Council. In 2023, we would neither accept or tolerate government’s unprincipled behaviour and attitudes towards the Georgetown City Council. I am aware that some of my detractors would point to current condition of the city but our efforts to do better has been stymied by the government.
We are still waiting on the appropriate response from the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development on the City Litter by- laws. We are still waiting to engage government on new valuation of properties in the city. Many injustices have been committed against the city. Nevertheless, we are determined to do our best to improve condition in Georgetown.
In the end, it is the City Council that has the statutory responsible for all those facilities, which the government is attempting to repair, remove, change or rebuilt. For us, the Act is clear and we are sure about our responsibilities, duties and powers. These things we are not willing to compromise.