City councillors closer to 100% allowances increase

City Council Round-up By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
July 3, 2000

City 'Fathers' and 'Mothers' are one step away from getting a 100 percent increase in their allowances, with the possibility of a retroactive payout from January 1st this year.

The increases and backpay were recommended by the council's Finance Committee last week, after councillors had a short discussion at their statutory meeting one week ago. The topic was raised by the Good and Green Guyana (GGG) councillor Harold Kissoon, in a question to Mayor Hamilton Green, "When are we going to get our increases...I need an increase in my allowance..." he declared.

The outspoken GGG councillor who is never afraid to 'tell it like it is' on matters municipal, had been in the vanguard for a sizeable increase in his allowance. While all the other councillors around the horseshoe table would welcome the 100 percent increase there were only two other voices and they were from women councillors, who expressed support for councillor Kissoon's pleadings.

Councillor Rudolph Harris then proposed a 26 percent increase arguing that the 100 percent figure could send the wrong message to the government and council workers. There were no takers, as the silent majority of councillors, most of whom make no contributions to the twice-monthly debates, remained speechless in the hope that no other councillor would come up with a figure less than 100 percent.

The chairman of the council's Finance Committee, deputy Mayor Robert Williams, informed the meeting that a sum of money had been set aside in this year's budget for increased allowances to councillors, but it was not 100 per cent. He suggested that a special meeting of the Finance Committee be called to discuss the matter.

When that meeting was convened at city hall mid last week a record number of members and non members of the committee attended, and a recommendation was approved by the committee for a 100 percent hike in allowances for councillors and a retroactive payout from January 1st 2000.

This recommendation is to be brought before the full council at its next statutory meeting.

At present councillors receive $15,000 per month as an allowance or stipend for travelling to statutory meetings which are held twice monthly in addition to committee meetings in city hall. The city 'fathers' and 'mothers' routinely receive their cheques or in some instances their pay envelopes when they attend the first statutory meeting for the month, which is usually well attended, at least for the first two hours.

It is worth mentioning that over the years Mayor Green's GGG councillors have been constantly attending committee meetings and chairing most of them, because of the reluctance of councillors from the People's National Congress (PNC) and the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) to participate fully in the deliberations. Earlier this year with appeals from the mayor and his deputy at least two councillors each from the PNC and the PPP/Civic have responded.

The increases, if they are approved at the next statutory meeting will cost taxpayers an additional $11.2M.

Undoubtedly there is a handful of councillors numbering about a dozen from all three political parties, with most of them coming from the GGG, who deserve to receive an increase. These councillors are Williams, Kissoon, Chase-Green, Llewellyn John and Gwen McGowan of the GGG, from the PNC Desmond Moses, former mayor Ranwell Jordan, Phyllis Beckles and Oscar Clarke in that order and Ronald (Rocky) Mann, Victor Sobers, Rudolph Harris and Fitz Agard from the PPP/Civic.

The vote on July 10th when the full council meets should send a clear signal to the government of President Jagdeo that his administration must adopt a more hands-on policy towards the Georgetown City Council whose members are living on borrowed time. It is time both the minister of local government and the citizens of Georgetown demand performance for increased allowances from the city 'fathers' and 'mothers'.

Make no mistake as night follows day the council's officers will soon be demanding increases in their allowances to be followed by other staff.

City Treasurer's dilemma The City Treasurer Mr Roderick Edinboro's tactic in expediting his travel arrangements to Jamaica to attend a course at the University of the West Indies has been frowned upon by councillors.

Mr Edinboro two weeks ago visited the homes and businesses of more than 20 councillors to get their signatures to a document seeking the council's permission to go on a one-month course, with city hall providing funds for his travelling, accommodation and per diem while in Jamaica. The total cost is US$4,240. At last Monday's statutory meeting the proposed trip to Jamaica by the City Treasurer was raised and it was then discovered by nearly all the signatories that Mayor Green had not appended his signature to the round robin document though they claimed Mr Edinboro assured them that the 'chief citizen's signature would be forthcoming.

Both councillors John and T. Anson Sancho of the GGG were critical of the method which was used by the city treasurer. "Councillors should have been given an opportunity to make their comments on such a request" concillor John added. Similar sentiments, expressed in a more caustic manner came from Mayor Green.

Mr Edinboro is contending that the Jamaica course would assist him in upgrading his accounting skills and that he adopted that course of action because of the time factor. The course was scheduled to begin in July 3rd. He explained to me that the round robin method in such circumstances is nothing new within the council's administration.

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