No-confidence against REO of Region 8… Showdown likely as Local Govt. asks for evidence
The Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region Eight may have taken a vote of no confidence against its executive officer last week, but it is far from a done deal.
The region may now have to produce evidence that Regional Executive Officer (REO), Ronald Harsawack, committed breaches in the course of his duties and therefore cannot hold the confidence of the other councillors.
“While the RDC in itself can express their dissatisfaction with the performance of any employee, they need to support those dissatisfaction with evidence based on documentation, so that the administration in itself and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development can seek to intervene, investigate and make a determination,” Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Ganga Persaud, is reported as saying in a press conference Monday.
On Sunday, Kaieteur News broke the story of the no-confidence motion against Harsawack, a former REO of Region Nine.
The other independent daily, Stabroek News, picked up on the story for its Monday edition.
Kaieteur News was not invited to a press conference that the Ministry called Monday at which the Minister and Permanent Secretary, Colin Croal, were both present.
Both could not be reached yesterday although an official close to the Minister’s office said that he will ascertain the cause why the independent media were not invited. No report of the press conference was in yesterday’s edition of the Stabroek News.
On July 10th, the RDC met, passing a no-confidence motion tabled by Oswald Junor, Councillor for A Partnership For National Unity.
Kaieteur News was told of “several instances” in which Harsawack allegedly delayed the mobilization of excavators to conduct critical works.
“This was almost like sabotage. Mr. Harsawack is actually the Chief Executive Officer of the Region and by not releasing resources on time, people suffered. This is not an issue about AFC or APNU. People will want to lay blame. Well, the blame is on the doorstep of the REO. Further, there is a lack of trust,” an AFC councillor said Saturday.
The REO, when contacted over the weekend, admitted that a no-confidence vote was passed against him but referred all questions to the Local Government Ministry.
Residents of Mahdia, which is the heart of Region Eight, had blocked roads and protested road conditions and the garbage situation in recent months.
Roads leading to the local airfield were also not done in time.
“We have several instances where the REO was asked to assist with a number of projects and he failed to carry them out.”
In one case, there were discrepancies over the price quoted for the rental of a bulldozer, with the REO reportedly saying it was $120,000.
“We could not believe when the operator insisted that the price was actually $50,000 for the rental. So there are several instances of non-cooperation, and the RDC is not prepared at this time to work with Mr. Harsawack,” the opposition parties’ officials stated over the weekend.
During the press conference with a few chosen media houses, Minister Ganga Persaud said that the RDCs have no authority over elected appointed officials.
According to a government release of the press conference, Persaud said that there were concerns with regards to the manner in which the Regional administration lead by the REO was approaching the resolution to some issues affecting residents within the region, and as such, the lack of knowledge by the Regional Chairman regarding the procurement procedures in that Region, coupled with the seeming lack of knowledge of Regional Administration functions and the guidelines under which they operate, would have contributed to the current state of affairs.
“On quite a few occasions I took time off to explain to the Regional Chairman the procurement procedures with regards to how we procure services and award contracts,” the Local Government Minister said.
He claimed that the Regional Chairman sought to mislead his council on a number of issues: the contracts for the roads, the procurement procedure which obtains, and the conscious, willful destruction/vandalism of the water networks in the Region, particularly the Mahdia sub-region.
“Here again the Regional Chairman would have lead the Council to believe that the REO would have misrepresented the situation…there were also small subsidiary administrative issues in which there seems to have been a difference in opinion in representing the situation as it is…those were the basic grounds on which the RDC took the decision,” Persaud said.
While RDC councillors are elected, the REO is a public servant appointed to the position.
Both AFC and APNU have signaled intentions to speak on the Region 8 no-confidence vote during their respective press conferences this week.