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Green believes that the political environment did not permit easy implementation of the things he had set out to do when he took office as city mayor eight years ago. This was compounded, he said, by a lack of cooperation from senior officers of the M&CC which crippled the manner and speed which he had intended to use to get things done.
His colleague Clarke also feels that Green and key officers of the municipality have been responsible for the city not achieving much. This is in addition to the postponement of local government and municipal elections and the government taking advantage of the legislation to postpone annual mayoral elections which has frustrated attempts to change the leadership. The government has said in the past that the elections were postponed because they clashed with arrangements for national elections. More recently the elections were deferred because a committee on local government was deliberating on changes to the mode of elections and other matters.
In separate interviews with Green and Clarke on the functioning of the M&CC over the past eight years, they both contended that the M&CC could have achieved more but lamented that this did not happen. Stabroek News was unable to get an interview with the PPP/C lead-councillor, Fitzgerald Agard despite several attempts.
Green, who at one time enjoyed the sobriquet `Action Green’, recalled that when he became mayor for the first time in 1994 he was hoping that he could apply his ability to get things done. He had set out a number of guidelines and objectives at his inauguration.
Prior to his inauguration, he said that then President, Dr Cheddi Jagan, suggested to him a rotating leadership among the three political parties which had contested the mayoral elections. Dr Jagan had suggested a modus operandi for a rotating leadership which Green said he had to consider but before the GGG could have considered it the other parties apparently agreed to it.
Green contested the elections in the city under the banner of the GGG after he was expelled from the PNC and won the highest number of seats in the city, considered a stronghold of the PNC. Of the 30-seat council, Green won 12, the PNCR 10 and the PPP/C 8.
The PNC apparently, he said, had agreed to the rotation but “I don’t know how” and Green was elected to hold the office of mayor from 1994 to 1995. Following the agreed rotation, Ranwell Jordan of the PNC was elected mayor, with the backing of the PPP/C, the following year but when the third year came and the PPP/C was to assume office the PPP/C failed to gain the support of the PNC and Green was returned to office with his party’s majority support. Since 1996 Green has been at the helm of the city.
Since he has been in office, Green said that he has always had the cooperation of President Bharrat Jagdeo and ministers Harripersaud Nokta and Clinton Collymore, who are attached to the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. “While they have offered their full cooperation with advice,” he said, “unfortunately, it was not always the same with funding.”
From the outset, Green said, the councillors from the opposition parties “seem to be opposing some of what I wanted to do.”
He said that efforts to frustrate his best plans were on account of “politics and a lack of appreciation for the role they (the officers of the council) have to play. Apart from the cooperation he got from the President and the ministers “beyond that it is frightening,” he said, adding that politics had conspired against him “in the sense that the PNC under (former PNCR Leader Desmond) Mr Hoyte did not want me to be a successful mayor.”
He contended that the PNC worked very closely with these senior officers of the council who have been carrying out a campaign to discredit him. He said that leader of the PNC councillors, Oscar Clarke “has been cooperative but he is only one person.”
Last year, Green said that the council was so fed up with the attitude of the officers of the council that he was able to get a motion for the first time requesting the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development to conduct an investigation on the operations of the office of the M&CC in the interest of the council. The investigation is currently being conducted.
He said that one of the main complaints is that he is never able to get weekly or fortnightly reports on the work of the various departments, although the council has been trying to sensitise citizens about the city’s plans through his weekly mayoral broadcasts.
In spite of the level of indiscipline, Green said that he cannot discipline the officers because the regulations of the council do not allow him to discipline them. The issue of discipline is being addressed at several levels, he said, and he is hopeful that the local government reform legislation flowing from the committee set up out of the Jagdeo/Hoyte dialogue will deal with it.
The previous Town Clerk, Prince Melville and his deputy were very cooperative, both now deceased, he said. Melville’s successor, Beulah Williams, he said appeared to have had some loyalty to some officers who were seemingly immersed in their personal objectives rather than spending their time doing the council’s work. When contacted by Stabroek News Williams said she would withhold comment until the publication of the news item. The council, Green charged, has building inspectors drawing plans for people and operating outside of their geographic responsibility.
Green said that because of the non-performance of the City Engineer’s Department the council invited respected engineer Charles Liburd to make some recommendations to the council to improve the workings of the department. Somehow, he noted, the officers got the support of the council who frustrated the process while querying the recruitment of Liburd’s services. As such, he said, Liburd’s recommendations were never implemented.
A consultancy, dubbed the Sandra Jones Report, which looked at the institutional strengthening of the municipality, alluded to the lack of discipline as a great deficiency, he said.
Stating that at present “there is really no accountability by senior officers,” he said that an incident of carelessness with a dragline on Carifesta Avenue during the last quarter of last year nearly killed a man. Instead of investigating and accepting responsibility, Green said “we have the PRO (Public Relations Officer) making all kinds of excuses in public.”
On the other hand, he said, he has always enjoyed good cooperation from the medical officers. He feels that this was so because those officers, the late Dr Sultan Kassim and the incumbent Dr Vibart Shury took a very professional attitude to their work. The public health department, he said, always works well due to the quality of leadership they have always had.
In terms of achievements, Green said that he was able to get some vendors relocated to the Merriman’s Mall and in spite of many difficulties. This relocation has been criticised for failing to solve the problem and for ruining the appearance of the mall.
The other problem, too, he said, is that the council operates in a number of committees and that has tended to slow up some development.
Sandra Jones Report
Stating that now that the time has come to implement the recommendations of the Sandra Jones and Associates Consultancy Report, he charged that efforts to frustrate the work of the council is evident in that the working party looking at the study is seeking an extension of its life. That working group, he said, was paid over $500,000. “That is only the tip of the iceberg”, he said.
Green said that if the Sandra Jones recommendations could be implemented some success would be realised. However, he said, already efforts are being made by certain sections of the council to frustrate the efforts even though the study conducted by Sandra Jones and Associates had the full approval of the council.
Green said he had been frustrated in his efforts to meet parking requests by major companies and diplomatic missions, as well as the upgrading of the John Ford Car Park. And he feels that the Engineering Department should be more flexible.
He noted also that the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) had wanted to upgrade the area around the bank “because it is like a toilet”, but the Engineering Department rejected the bank’s plan. Green said “if I had the authority, I would have dismissed them a long time and really have this place working.” Just recently, too, he said, Demerara Shipping Limited in an effort to beautify the place erected a fence and the city’s engineer’s department broke it down. He reiterated that “they are really inept. They are trying to frustrate the Sandra Jones report.”
Asked whether he holds staff conferences, Green said “that does not make any difference. Once they have an objective... you know.”
For instance on the issue of littering, he said there are allegations that the constabulary is taking money. “All someone has to do is pull a thousand dollar note. It is a serious matter. Litigation is few in this regard.”
Green was not keen on commenting on the wider vending issue in this interview except to say that it would take volumes and that it was a deep and complex socio-economic problem of the whole society.
Clarke joined the council after former councillors Raphael Trotman and Deborah Backer went to Parliament after the 1997 general elections. He said that since he joined the council there has not been the sort of progress in the workings of the municipality.
The council has not been effective and efficient because the correct strategies have not been used in the way “we have gone about our work.” He has drawn this to the attention of the council.
At present, he said, a number of things are happening, including the Georgetown Development Plan and the Sandra Jones recommendation for operational and institutional strengthening.
Now that the Georgetown Development Plan has been accepted, he said, the council could look at longer- term, two or three-year plans.
The Sandra Jones Report deals with all aspects of the council from the involvement of councillors to the execution of the various tasks of the council.
It recommends structures and strategies and the operation of the council could improve by leaps and bounds, he said.
Clarke also noted the need to involve the staff in the planning of the works of the council through staff conferences. Useful though these sessions might be, he said, “decisions are never followed through in their entirety and for one reason or another we never get anything done.”
The decisions made, he said, are never kept because the top managers, including the Mayor himself, tend to make on the spur of the moment decisions and changes which tend to have implications because they were never taken into account in the first place.
He gave a recent example in which the Mayor suggested granting incentives to employees who worked on extinguishing a fire at the Mandela landfill when that had not been budgeted for.
Asked whether an interim management committee could make a difference like the one set up just after the 1992 elections, Clarke said that one of the problems encountered with the local government administration is that Central Government wants to run it. This is currently a problem with the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), he said, adding that many of them are operating at the whims of the local government ministers.
The city council has not been constrained to the extent of the NDC but it has affected the running of the municipality with the release of the annual subvention. “Normally, the M&CC would have to wait until the year ends to get the subvention when the council would have planned to spend the subvention during the year.” Last year, he said that the subvention was paid during the last quarter of the year.
Rates and Taxes
Clarke noted that rates and taxes are a big part of city management and the government ministries and agencies, he said, are the biggest defaulters.
He said that “right now the government owes hundreds of millions and the council cannot do the work it has planned to do because it does not have the money to do it.” The whole local government system has suffered because of the way Central Government impacts on it, he said.
Local Govt Elections
In relation to how the postponement of local government elections has affected the operations of the council, Clarke said that the yearly elections of the mayor gives an opportunity to the council to determine whether a mayor has given personal leadership. If it is desirable, then the council has the opportunity to change him or her.
In the case of Georgetown, he said, there is a lot of clamour for changing the mayor but the postponement of mayoral elections has offered no chance for changes. Clarke said “I don’t think Green’s leadership on the council has been exemplary.”
Why? Because Green has “had very bad relationships with the most senior members of the council,” Clarke stated.He said that his relationship with “the town clerk, with the city engineer, with everybody has always been topsy turvy.”
Further, Clarke contended, “if you are the leader and you have such a terrible relationship with the top administrators how could you get their support?
It can’t be that all of them are bad. Something got to be wrong with you.” As a friend and colleague, he said, he has advised Green to examine himself.
Until fresh elections are held, Clarke said, if the council introduces some of the reforms recommended by Sandra Jones the city could see a difference in the performance of the council and the administration.