Dec 31, 2008 News
– even as the need for change is emphasised
From all indications, the workers of the Georgetown municipality will not receive their December wages and salaries this year since the municipality, up to yesterday, had not received monies expected from Government and other sources.
The municipality was also relying on the approval of a city bank to convert a bank overdraft to a loan, another scheme that has since fallen through.
A recent intensified rates and tax collection process had allowed the municipality to garner in excess of $18M, a sum that has proven insufficient to pay the 900-odd workers within its employ.
However, city officials were yesterday strategising in earnest to find a way to pay the workers in order to prevent looming strike action.
The municipality, although it had intensified its revenue collection process recently, was unable to pay workers wages and salaries before Christmas Day which had caused some union represented workers to engage industrial action in the form of a sit-in last Wednesday.
Among the areas that were included in the action were the Abattoir, the Maternal and Child Health, Public Health and Food Hygiene and the Environmental Health departments of the municipality as well as the Stone Depot and the Solid Waste Department.
And according to President of the Guyana Local Government Officers Union, Andrew Garnett, industrial action will continue until workers are paid in full.
Yesterday, some workers noted their agitation at the situation but according to Deputy Mayor, Robert Williams, they (the workers) are still cooperating with the municipality.
The Deputy Mayor reiterated his view though that the municipality’s intent to pay the workers with much urgency will be boosted as soon as the government pays up a sum of $53M, which represents its rates and taxes for the last quarter of this year.
But according to an official close to the operation of the municipality, much-needed funds have been utilised in the wrong way given the entity’s financial situation.
It was noted that although there was need to emphasise the importance of cautioning citizens against littering, the municipality directed much needed funds to advertisements and disregarded the fact that sufficient funds were not available to pay workers.
This state of affairs, it was noted, emphasises the fact that there is a dire need for the restructuring of the municipality whereby competent persons will be placed in capacities that they can manage optimally.
It was anticipated that a restructuring process which was engaged earlier this year would have helped to rectify the evident instances of mismanagement within the municipality. However, City Mayor Hamilton Green recently revealed that the process will not be completed this year.
According to him, the process is now dependent on the response of the Minister of Local Government, Mr Kellawan Lall, adding that he has written to the Minister requesting that a technically competent officer be secured to complete the process.
Since earlier this year the Mayor had revealed that in order to ensure that the process is professionally pieced together, the services of a consultant who has no attachment to the city would have been sought.
He had informed that City Hall was seeking outside assistance in order to ensure that the restructuring process becomes a reality.
It was anticipated at its commencement earlier this year that the restructuring would have been completed this year end and the functioning of the municipality would have improve.
But it is the belief of some persons close to the operation of the municipality that the process of restructuring cannot be effectively completed unless the inquiry into the 2007 Auditor General Report is completed.
The AG report has over the years suggested that there were financial discrepancies and mismanagement at municipality, but it was only this year that the Minister of Local Government insisted that an investigation be carried out into the municipality’s operations.
According to the City Mayor, while the findings of the inquiry are important to improve the overall operation of the municipality, he does not believe that it would weigh heavily on the restructuring process.
During a recent interview with this newspaper, Commissioner of the Inquiry, Mr Keith Burrowes, had informed that although there was a request for the Commission to also address the restructuring process, such will not be the case.
He had pointed out though that within the findings of the investigation, which is expected to be completed within a few weeks time, there will be recommendations which could aid the process along.
Burrowes had revealed that the commission has detected that the council’s inefficiencies is linked to the lack of capacity in all of its departments; lack of proper systems, and lack of innovativeness in responding to challenges.
Burrowes articulated that one of the key issues that must be addressed is the change of the culture of operation at the municipality, which will in fact be a long term change since even the capabilities of officers in key positions will be thoroughly scrutinised and hopefully revamped.
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