City's budget set at $1.65B
Information technology centre planned By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
April 11, 2002

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The Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) yesterday presented a $1.65 billion budget for the year 2002 which focuses on establishing an information technology centre, restructuring the city constabulary and improving its internal auditing among other areas.

Some attention will also be paid to a revision of the Municipal and District Council's Act to define the role of the mayor and deputy mayor in the execution of tasks, "while they are assumed to be functioning full time."

The council has not increased rates and taxes since 1998. A new valuation exercise is to be done this year.

This year's budget estimate was about the same as last year's after the original figure of $1.9 billion was revised to $1.6 billion. However, the sum of $1.3 billion was spent last year.

Presenting the budget at City Hall yesterday morning, Deputy Mayor Robert Williams said that in terms of human resource development, the M&CC will revamp selection and recruitment, training and appraisals and updating of staff/salaries data among other areas.

Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Mayor and City Council, Robert Williams presenting the council's budget yesterday at City Hall.

In relation to the functioning of the Internal Audit Unit, Williams said that unfortunately, in the past, the unit mandated to monitor, evaluate and report on the efficacy of the various systems operated in the M&CC, had never been equipped to do so. As such, he said, it would be technically equipped and would enjoy an authoritative position to perform the range of monitoring and investigative exercises.

With the effective functioning of an Information Technology Centre, Williams said, the M&CC will establish a data centre to manage information and set up communication links with appropriate agencies, contractors and other cities internationally. The Information Centre, he said, would be the basis for the communication structure, which would make provision for managers to interface productively and in a structured manner with different levels and groupings of staff.

Restructuring the constabulary

The restructuring of the City Constabulary, Williams said, would include revised responsibilities and authority; an examination of physical working conditions; issues of procurement of materials, equipment; review of the system of promotion; development of the existing training capability and incentives.

In terms of market revenue collection, he said, the council proposed to collect $115 million, some $5 million more than last year. The M&CC is expected to receive the renovated Stabroek Market by June 20 with new electrical fittings and lighting system, sanitary facilities and roof. The council might, he said, once again review operational costs and "may likely increase rental on the basis of facilities offered."

Council will also take action regarding operators in front of the said market. This will be pursued in line with the relocation of vendors to the Toolsie Persaud Ltd site on Water Street, acquired through parliament.

Other expenditure will include $16 million for training for institutional strengthening; and in the line of maintenance some $85 million for roads; $60 million for drainage; $35 million for culverts; and $20 million for street lighting. Some $21 million will be disbursed on the acquisition of equipment and vehicles.

Williams said that the political climate and the "serious differences on the way forward by the major political players in the country," were likely to have implications for Georgetown as the capital where 50% of the country's population in one way or another utilises some of the city's facilities.

He noted that Guyana's net external borrowing was expected to be in the vicinity of $11 billion, much of which will be influenced by the position the government takes on international issues. An expected US$10 million for the development of the city's Solid Waste Management programme and new refuse disposal facility could be adversely affected by such policies.

He pointed out that the employment cost in the M&CC was budgeted at $825 million, but the council voted the agreed amount on the understanding that there could be adjustments within the various departments based on the institutional strengthening programme. He said that while the unions had requested a 30% increase and agreed to pursue negotiations on a new collective agreement, the M&CC believed that the institutional strengthening programme could provide much relief to the general employment remuneration package of workers.

Reviewing the council's performance last year, Williams said that considering the limitations of budgetary allocations it was reasonable, in general. Some of the policy decisions implemented included a sustained continuous drainage programme; repairs of bridges and culverts; preparation of accounts up to 2000 and submissions to the auditor general; commencement of an institutional strengthening process; and the urban development programme.

Street lights deal

The city, he said, overcame some of its difficulties with the Guyana Power and Light Inc and is now to finalise a deal to allow for the return of normal arrangements for street lighting facilities in the city.

The relationship with government over the period improved and matters that engaged their attention and will be further pursued are the next phase of the Urban Development Programme, solid waste management, new revenue sources and settlement of all outstanding taxes and identification of properties owned by the government for rating purposes.

The council collected 80% of taxes last year as against 69% the previous year. The sum of $1.1 billion was collected. The improvement in the collection of rates and taxes, Williams said, enabled the council to plan and execute programmes more effectively.

However, he said, the council noted there was a number of properties which paid residential rates while pursuing business operations. This, he said, would have to be dealt with during the new valuation exercises to be done this year and outstanding amounts will be paid.

Revenue from the markets for last year dropped and some $109 million was collected as against a budgeted $125 million. This decline was due to non-collection of cleansing fees because of legal action, reduced economic activities in certain areas and closure of a number of stalls for various reasons. Market fees are the city's second highest revenue earner.

The US$75,000 budgeted for the start of the rehabilitation process of the abattoir last year has now been shifted to the latter part of this year, he said, adding that more monies are to be expended to ensure that the facilities are properly equipped.

Public health environmental cases and an anti-littering and encumbrance campaign have met with some measure of success, Williams said, and fines in excess of $1.2 million were paid into the Consolidated Fund of the National Treasury. But the city has, for years, been unable to transfer these sums to the municipality. The council's law enforcement arm, he said, was required to be better equipped but the retention of the fines by the national treasury did not enhance the morale of the City Constabulary or the Engineer's enforcement section.

Williams said that it has been determined that the new landfill site would be in Eccles. A foreign-based environmental company called ERM has been contracted in association with Ground Services Engineer.

The project, financed by a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IBD), includes preparatory works for a loan from the IDB to the Government of Guyana for improvement of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Georgetown. Significant participation of the private sector is a condition for the loan financing by the IDB and the terms of reference assumes this to be through a concession type arrangement with the private sector. It is the task of the present project to analyse the institutional and financial framework required for such involvement and to prepare the concession bidding documents. A report is expected by July 31.