`We're in crisis' -Mayor says about budget delay
City Council Roundup
by Cecil Griffith
May 17, 2004
Up to late last week the city council's Finance Committee headed by Deputy Mayor Robert Williams was still attempting to get the figures right, paving the way for the 2004 budget to be presented before month end.
Town Clerk (TC) Beulah Williams was put on the hot seat at the last statutory meeting of the council when councillors demanded a firm date to be announced.
It was a struggle against time to keep a promise that the estimates of revenue and expenditure would be ready in March 2004. This was not to be.
No one is admitting, at least publicly, that millions are still to be accounted for, which were disbursed to some 'big ones' and a few 'small ones' in the guise of salary advances and loans.
The quick on the draw public relations officer Royston King, has challenged the figure of $30M which is the amount first mentioned as outstanding. His figure is $2.7M as of April 30, 2004. Up to last Monday the figures were not adding up. When Mayor Hamilton Green who presided at the meeting asked the TC … "What has happened to the 2004 budget… "We are obviously in a crisis…" the response was … "ask the chairman of the Finance Committee, who is sitting next to you."
But the 'chief citizen' soldiered on, "you are spending money… This is 2004 the last budget was presented in March 2003…" The chairman of the Finance Committee sitting on the mayor's right, Deputy Mayor Williams, told the meeting that his committee was still waiting on the Treasurer's Department for certain relevant information to be provided.
The City Treasurer was then summoned to explain in lucid language what was going on. His explanation did not go down well with several members of the council including the 'chief citizen'. In disgust he remarked "it is better we hold picnics twice a month instead of statutory meetings…"
People's National Congress Reform councillor Ranwell Jordan recalled hearing the TC saying that the budget would be ready sometime in April.
The leader of the People's Progressive Party/Civic group on the council, councillor Fitzgerald Agard, who is a member of the Finance Committee along with his opposite number on the council, Oscar Clarke said he had refused to attend meetings of the committee for the budget preparation because the figures from the Treasurer's Department are unreliable... "We are getting the royal runaround..."
The Good and Green Guyana councillor Gwen McGowan... chipped in… "We are embarrassed the TC must give us a date now."
Bringing closure to the contentious debate the mayor ruled with support from the council that a deadline must be given, suggesting today, it cannot be held over, "a long shadow is being cast on this council…"
Mayor Green complains
Mayor Green fresh from visits to South Korea and the United States hobnobbing with the Moonies and assuming the mantle as a peace messenger, was in a combative mood when he presided at last Monday's statutory meeting.
On the receiving end were the government of President Bharrat Jagdeo, city councillors and especially the municipal administration.
"The Government's administrative structure is holding back this country… people are turning back when they reach Trinidad… we'll be left in the wilderness…" So much for the Jagdeo administration.
Turning to the city 'fathers' and 'mothers' the 'chief citizen' claimed that there were personality cults around the horseshoe-shaped table. Earlier during a debate on the cemetery, Good and Green Guyana councillor Harold Kissoon either in anger or jest declared … "we sit here like a pack of jokers…" (not a councillor objected and there was full attendance at the meeting...)
As for the officer corps, Mayor Green complained that he is the only mayor in the world without a computer on his desk. "There are no magazines available" and with a reminder from his deputy the meeting learned that the Official Gazette is a scarce item at City Hall.
The mayor said the council's decisions are flouted with impunity and the officers are 'doing their own thing'. "We are suffering from administrative indigestion…", he concluded.
City Hall and GWI
The city council is threatening court action against the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) for allegedly dumping raw sewage into the city's canals.
The decision to take legal action followed on a plea by GGG councillor Edwin Bispat who had identified areas where the alleged infractions are taking place, calling for immediate action by the council… and pointing an accusing finger at GWI.
The Town Clerk told the meeting that her administration had been in touch with the Water Company on the matter but the situation remained unchanged. The TC said the Environmental Protection Agency had been approached to look at the complaint but the agency could do nothing.
When an expert explanation was sought from the Medical Officer of Health (MOH), Dr. Vibert Shury, he said the matter is one for the newly created Solid Waste department headed by Mr. Rufus Lewis. He kicked the 'ball' back into the goal of the MOH.. "It is matter for the MOH". The council's legal advisers may be called in.
It seems as though the members of the city constabulary only patrol up to Orange Walk going east of the city. This could be the only acceptable explanation as to how in public view a car-washing business has sprung up at the corner of Robb and Cummings streets just outside the yet to be opened unauthorised four-storey structure on the corner.
At last the Meat and Food Inspectorate section of the MOH department appears to have sufficient staff, to be in a position to send a four-member team to a restaurant following a complaint by a customer some two week ago. It turned out that the complaint was groundless although it was satisfactorily taken care of.
This column looks forward to a continuation of this aggressive action by staff at the Meat and Food Inspectorate, monitoring all those unauthorised, insanitary and illegal restaurants and other food businesses which now dot the entire city which no longer has residential areas… The MOH department had been complaining over the years that it suffers from a lack of staff to ensure that the by-laws are adhered to and applied evenly.