GPL cuts off city hall for $200M debt
-Green pleads for enhanced revenue base
Stabroek News
November 25, 2006

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Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green yesterday announced that the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) has disconnected power to City Hall and other areas connected to City Hall because of the non-payment of over $200M.

The Mayor feels that the problem stems from the narrow revenue base available to the city and the mismanagement of funds by the city administration.

Speaking at a press conference held at City Hall, the Mayor said that the crisis might adversely affect citizens and workers. City Hall was forced to run on a generator for a few hours.

According to the Mayor, on November 21, the supply of electricity was cut off from the City Hall Complex, the Bourda Constabulary Out-post, the Constabulary Train-ing Complex, the Municipal Abattoir and the South Road Day Care Centre.

"We just don't have enough money and the stubborn administration has failed to manage the little funds that we have effectively".

Moreover, the situation has created much dislocation and considerable inconvenience. There has not been any proper inspection and the slaughtering of meat cannot be done efficiently.

"In the case of the abattoir, it presents to the city and its environs the potential for a serious health problem", said Green.

"This situation is untenable and on behalf of the council, I wish to make an apology to the public who would be affected".

Street lights may also be cut off and other areas where City Hall exercises responsibility could be similarly affected.

The average revenue of the council is $80M-$85M per month. Market fees are $10M per month, the City Engi-neer's Department's building fees are $3M per month while the Public Health Department takes in $3M. Miscellaneous revenue is around $5M.

In terms of expenses, Green also said that the average cost of solid waste disposal was $20M to $25M per month, wages and salaries were $70M per month and street lighting ran to $10M per month.

Green said that even if City Hall collects 100 percent of its taxes, it can't sustain an adequate programme of activity. The mayor told the gathering that he has complained to the appropriate government authorities about gross mismanagement by the city administration but requests to deal with that have been ignored.

According to him, the Town Clerk and Treasurer, along with the Public Rela-tions Officer (PRO) have proceeded on earned vacation, leaving behind handover statements with serious revelations.

"For years, we have asked that a leave roster be prepared before the start of each year, so that the leave of senior officers will be intelligently spaced out" said Green.

An "arbitration decision required the Council to find millions of dollars as arrears for uniform and other allowances".

The Mayor stated that since the Interim Manage-ment Committee was in office in 1994 it had asked to broaden the revenue base because it was conscious that the existing taxes could not manage the city. Since then there has been no action.

The Mayor also disclosed that as a result of ongoing drainage and civil works the city owes private contractors millions of dollars. In some cases, the works have been stopped by contractors for non-payment.

Green said that President Bharrat Jagdeo had allocated over $10M for the enhancement of specified areas in the city. The Administration awarded contracts to persons without informing the Chair-man of the Finance Commit-tee, the Mayor, or councillors although systems are in place for the way in which contracts are to be awarded.

"The administration seems to be immune to discipline" said Green.

"There are other serious defects within the Municipa-lity which need to be addressed and this must be done without delay, this however, must not be used as an excuse by the Government for narrow political purposes or to assume direct control of the management of the City when other means exist, which we have proposed, for sometime now".

The Mayor said that the parties in Parliament need to get together and settle urgently, the Local Government Reform, specifically for the urban centres for people to decide on their representatives.

Because of the existing national economic situation, the council as a body is reluctant to increase rates and taxes, by itself, since it is felt that the property owners should not be further burdened. Rates and taxes have been frozen for a number of years. Green said there was need to look at areas that have been proposed on several occasions: to broaden the revenue base and improve management. The Mayor also added that he has heard of some misconduct by officers at City Hall.

"As Mayor, I get involved with no deals, the only way is to cleanse the Augean stables" said the Mayor.

"We have been denied money, management and materials to look after the city".