GPL offers to discuss debt with City Council

Guyana Chronicle
November 28, 2006

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GUYANA Power & Light (GPL) is willing to meet representatives of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) for discussions on the recent disconnection of electricity supply from some municipal locations.

“GPL’s management remains open for discussion with the M&CC whenever they are so inclined,” the utility offered in a press release yesterday.

Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green had reported, last Friday, that GPL cut off current at several sites for the non-payment of $243M.

The affected places include the City Hall compound, Bourda Market Constabulary Outpost and the Constabulary Training Complex which had already been darkened since November 21 and the Municipal Abattoir and South Road Day Care Centre that followed on November 24.

GPL said it is not unusual for the corporation to enter into agreements with social agencies which cannot immediately meet their debts and one such was entered into with the M&CC in 2005.

However, earlier this year, the municipality lapsed on the terms of the agreement, GPL disclosed.

“Promises were made and a cheque for a small amount was paid to GPL in October. Soon, thereafter, the commercial bank was ordered by the municipality to stop payment,” the company stated.

After many failed attempts to contact M&CC officials the decision was taken to begin disconnection of the facilities operating under the confines of the M&CC, starting with the less essential, GPL said.

According to the release, special concessions have always been accorded many public and private organisations and social facilities, including places of worship, schools and municipal services.

But disconnection or notice of it is the option available to encourage customers to pay for electricity they have already consumed.

“GPL must generate its own revenue and capital to continue to generate and distribute electrical power, to pay our own creditors and to meet daily overheads, especially to purchase that vital raw material, fuel, which requires hard currency in advance before the fuel boats could be loaded in the selling country,” the release explained.

The Mayor’s Office, in a press release Sunday, contended that GPL owes the municipality more than $214M even as they continue to disconnect more facilities after Green’s Friday press conference.

“This recent action by GPL seems, therefore, to be part of a centrally directed plan to humiliate the Mayor and Council elected. If not, it is crassness, injustice and unprincipled behaviour by GPL,” the Sunday release charged.

It argued that the Georgetown Municipality levies taxes, according to law, on properties irrespective of change of ownership but GPL is sheltering behind the contention that it is not responsible for the debt of the predecessor Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC).

“Existing legal regulations require that all taxes owing to the municipality be satisfactorily settled before the transfer of any property in the city is effectuated to the new owner. We were never officially informed that GEC had transferred its plant and properties to GPL,” the release stated.

It claimed GPL is refusing to treat every installation individually and is seeking a settlement for the drainage pumps, markets, day care centres and street lighting before they reconnect.

“I hope that there will be an explanation for this brutal action by GPL, beyond the legal and constitutional technicalities, but one that address justice and morality,” Green declared.

On Friday, he blamed the situation on the council’s narrow revenue base, the attitude of the Government and a “stubborn” City Hall administration.

Green said sources from which revenue is garnered cannot maintain the necessary operations and, every month, of between $80M and $85M collected, wages and salaries alone consume some $70M.

Garbage disposal costs more than $20M and street lighting $10M. The money owed GPL is in relation to 46 municipal locations, the Mayor pointed out.