Challenge to M&CC
December 10, 2006
TRANSPARENCY and public accountability are twin faces of the same coin and quite relevant to good governance.
Since, therefore, it is a primary responsibility of the central government to ensure proper fiscal management in conducting the nation's business, so too must it be for the municipalities and local authorities.
In this context, President Bharrat Jagdeo's recent call on the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to shoulder its share of responsibility in fiscal management, in the face of continuing failures to do so in a number of areas, is both timely and necessary.
The government's traditional opponents and critics may wish to disagree even if they too are quite aware of how deplorable has been the record of performance in fiscal management and efficiency in administering the affairs of the M&CC.
After all, the eyesores are all around Georgetown for which the central government has committed itself for further significant expenditures to clean up the mess that mocks the once proud reputation of our capital as the "Garden City of the Caribbean".
As we reported yesterday, President Jagdeo noted with deep disappointment that the council "has not paved a single road in the city for probably ten years now with all the paving works being done directly through the (central) government..."
This is simply scandalous and, in our view, a sad indictment of local government administration in our capital city. President Jagdeo's expressed worry is one that should objectively be shared by others equally interested in knowing that the millions of dollars being allocated and disbursed for the M &CC are indeed being properly spent.
Citizens paying their rates and taxes to the council certainly deserve better.
More critical examination would, therefore, have to be made of the functioning by the current crop of councillors and the M&CC management in particular --.especially in relation to the new allocation of $200 million by the government as part of its general thrust to clean up and beautify Georgetown.
We are aware that there remains the challenging wider issue of a vigorous pursuit of arrangements for new local government elections not held since 1994, a scenario that is beginning to replicate a problem long faced also under successive governments of the PNC.
Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall in tabling the Local Authorities (Elections) Amendment) Bill 2006 last Thursday, has signalled another one year delay for the conduct of local government elections.
It is appreciated that fundamental reforms, including the electoral system to be used, fiscal management and clear lines of accountability must be resolved prior to such elections.
But both the government and parliamentary opposition must get their own acts together to advance this process.
If this cannot be done through the existing Joint Task Force on Local Government Reform, then some other appropriate mechanisms and/or consultative process should be pursued.
This, of course, is not, and should not be an excuse for the M&CC for failing to exercise the kind of responsibility necessary to ensure proper fiscal management and needed efficiency in providing the facilities for which central government funds are being provided, in addition to rates and taxes being paid.
No one year respite is required for the M&CC to do its job in road maintenance, garbage collection and other works because the larger issue of local government reform remains to be resolved ahead of new local government elections.