City still to present budget City Council Roundup
by Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
March 15, 2004

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Another attempt will be made this week to finalise preparations for the presentation of the city council's 2004 budget which was expected to be made public last Friday.

At last week's statutory meeting of the council the chairman of the Finance Committee, deputy mayor, Robert Williams left no doubt among councillors that budget day would have been March 12, 2004. But this was not to be despite at least two meetings of the budget committee and the Finance Committee.

The major problem is putting together a credible document with which members of the Finance Committee would be comfortable and could defend.

Over the past several meetings representatives from all three political parties who are members of the Finance Committee have complained about the questionable financial data provided them by the City Treasurer's Department.

The leader of the People's Progressive Party/Civic wing on the council, Fitzgerald Agard and Shirley Shepherd of the Good and Green Guyana (GGG) expressed disgust at the manner in which information was forthcoming from the city treasurer and the accounts manager. Councillor Agard had suggested that the finance committee go ahead and use whatever credible figures are available in order to meet the March deadline.

At one of the meetings of the Finance Committee last week a document was circulated which revealed a situation where municipal staff has failed to pay back loans and advances totalling millions of dollars, dating back to 2002.

The City Treasurer's Department has also been derelict in paying over contributions for PAYE and the NIS.

Get the job done

Making a second appeal to city 'fathers' and 'mothers' for guidance on how to handle the vendors who occupy the city's pavements illegally the chief constable Gail George has been given two weeks to work out a plan of action.

At the last statutory meeting People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) councillor Desmond Moses gave this reminder to the chief constable …"you are the person responsible for security it is for you to advise us." And he continued... "I get the impression that this is a deliberate attempt to allow the situation on the pavements to get worse." The deputy mayor Robert Williams who presided at the statutory meeting in the absence of Mayor Hamilton Green - he had a death in the family - told councillors that it is necessary that the chief constable present a plan for debate and approval. One question to be asked is whether the city police have the manpower to deal with the vendors on the pavements of the city.

The Town Clerk's (TC) intervention was "once the constabulary gets the complete support of the council fifty per cent of the work would have been completed..."

A check around the main shopping areas in George-town would reveal an increase in the numbers of persons encumbering the pavements especially in Regent Street with some owners of businesses being the chief culprits.

Security concerns

City 'fathers' and 'mothers' have expressed their regrets at the recent tragedy at the Brickdam police station last month in which two policemen, one of them an assistant police superintendent were gunned down by a former member of the force. The regrets were coupled with councillors' concern over the need for tighter security in the City Hall compound on Regent Street.

According to the deputy mayor, "What took place at Brickdam has implications for us as councillors who are exposed to the public on a daily basis."

PNCR councillor Oscar Clarke endorsed the deputy mayor's remarks. The TC promised to tighten security in the City Hall compound acknowledging that it is a place which is opened to the public.

A church cries out

The deplorable state of Saint Andrews school opposite the magistrate's court last week attracted the attention of the council resulting in a hurried visit to the school by two officers of the municipality.

Although their report was not available to this column it is known that the council and the Education Ministry are at loggerheads over which entity should take action in not only getting the school repaired but conducting a thorough cleaning up of the entire area between Croal Street and Brickdam, including the Avenue of the Republic and Commerce street.

The need for something to be done urgently was conveyed in a letter from the church's administration to City Hall. The church and the school are in the same compound.

The letter reveals the unauthorised use of the church's areas by vendors using it as a storage dept and a night shelter for vagrants. The council had sometime ago advised the church administration to construct a proper fence.

There have also been complaints from the management of the Demico House complex which is west of the school and church compound. Vendors have taken over the pavement on Croal Street next to the school selling food, sweets, cigarettes, soft drinks, beer and other goods during the day and night. In the absence of sanitary facilities in the immediate public areas a noxious smell of uric acid pervades. Let's not forget Banks DIH not only pays rates and taxes to the city council but taxes to the government. The beverage giant also employs hundreds of workers.