City Council to focus on capacity building
-legal division being proposed
Stabroek News
March 19, 2003

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There is an urgent need to seriously upgrade the administrative operations of the Mayor and City Council, according to Deputy Mayor Robert Williams. Among other things he is proposing the creation of a legal division to handle the litany of legal matters with which the council has to deal.

Williams, who is also the Chairman of the Council's Finance Committee, made these disclosures during the presentation of the $1.72B city budget on Friday.

He said the main need was for capacity building, as this would allow for the administration to be more responsive to the increasing needs of a growing city.

"All over the world, nation-states are working to keep the cities apace with new socio-economic, environmental, cultural and other trends, which provide for real development," he said.

Moreover, Williams said it was vital that the council complete the five year strategic/business plan for the city, to allow for progress and prosperity.

According to Williams every successive council that entered the chamber had come with its own view, impression and thinking.

"There is nothing to guide council in a particular direction. As a consequence, there is no continuity, and the city continues to suffer in the face of all that is happening in the Caribbean and the rest of the world. We need to get it right this time."

Towards this aim the council has allocated $6M to begin the construction of a building in the City Hall compound to accommodate and provide the necessary space for the administration to carry out its work in a more co-ordinated manner.

In addition, Williams said that the council would pursue the technical assistance and institutional strengthening component of the Urban Development Programme. This aspect, he stated, would finance municipal capacity building activities. Through this component, the programme would support technical assistance and training to improve financial management and planning, modern local administrative procedures, and developing own- source revenue generation.

Building the capacity of the administration, according to Williams, would include the development of basic financial administration, planning and budgeting skills with the aim of standardisation; strengthening tax collection and enforcement mechanisms; devising a social marketing programme to enhance citizen participation in local government; developing mechanisms to stimulate greater private sector involvement in the supply of municipal services; revising organisational structures, operational procedures and human resource management; and improving communication. There would be need to purchase a computer and peripheral equipment as well as the software necessary to improve the management capacity of the municipality.

Williams also touched on the Guyana Municipal Gover-nance and Management Programme, (MGMP) which he said was a joint initiative of Guyanese and Canadian municipalities and the governments of Guyana and Canada. He said in this programme Guyanese officials and partners worked together with Canadian municipal practitioners to develop practical and sustainable solutions to priority issues facing Guyana's municipalities.

It is a five-year-old programme involving George-town, New Amsterdam, Linden, Corriverton, Rose Hall and Anna Regina. It is implemented by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

According to the deputy mayor, MGMP projects would respond to priorities that municipal governments and citizens share.

In the city constabulary department of the council, Williams said that council "has an urgent responsibility and is morally and statutorily obliged to outfit and equip its law-enforcement arm, to secure our buildings, installations, and to enforce the city by-laws and regulations." He said to ignore the issue would be a fundamental error.

"More than that, we would be unfair to our city police if we ask them to execute their duties without the basic things necessary for their safety," he stressed. In this regard the council has allocated the sum of $15M to upgrade the constabulary.

Williams disclosed that plans are afoot for council to vigorously pursue the setting up of a legal division to manage its legal affairs in a professional manner.

He said that given the litany of legal matters it was only prudent and wise to put in place such a section. "It should be adequately and appropriately staffed and equipped to manage its responsibility," he said.

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