…new model of management likely to be introduced
The Commission of Inquiry, headed by Keith Burrowes, is contending that the government needs to pay urgent attention to the Georgetown City Council, which had serious problems with its operations even prior to the present international crisis.
In 2008, coming out of a report by the Auditor General, the Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the functionality and operations of the Council, especially the finance department and general administration.
The Commission had invited members of the public to come forward with complaints, reports and ideas to City Hall.
Quite a few citizens turned up and expressed their views on many aspects of the work of the City Council. A few had specific complaints against the council. It is left to be seen how the Commissioner will address these in his report.
At one of the public hearings, one citizen implored the Commissioner to encourage the Government to set up a special committee to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the report.
In his reply, the Commissioner stated that he had a specific mandate confined to clearly defined Terms of Reference (ToR), and that it would be up to the Government to accept the report and follow up with the recommendations.
It was noted that given the situation, ToR notwithstanding, a post-Inquiry Implementation Committee may not be a bad idea, particularly in circumstances where the incumbent Council appears to be incapable of articulating appropriate policies to develop the city.
Also highlighted was the fact that the present Council has been in place for over 13 years, and there has not been any seemingly logical policy to improve conditions in the Capital.
An example cited was the Council’s budget presentation earlier this year, in which it was revealed that, during last year, the entity had an estimated collection of $1.95 billion from six areas, but had a shortfall of $600 million; major shortfalls were in the areas of solid-waste management and in property taxes.
There was the opinion that if the Council were to improve its revenue collection strategy it could collect much more from defaulters. Some time ago there was a debt collection team at City Hall. It was also suggested that the Council may want to consider reintroducing this unit to aggressively collect large outstanding sums.
With reference to the Inquiry, this newspaper spoke with a senior official of the Council on the work of the Commission.
The Commission, the official said, contends that one problem which keeps surfacing in the reports of all the departments was the absence of benchmarks. This affected the ability of the officers to plan and develop proper strategies to cope with the increasing needs of the city and its citizens.
Another major challenge highlighted was the absence of an institutionalised approach to facilitating the exchange of ideas and pooling of resources between and among departments. As a result, some departments were not aware of the work of other sections. It resulted in duplication of efforts and a waste of the already very limited resources of the Council.
Additionally, the lack of a proper database, and consequently the flow of information through the organisation, poses a serious obstacle to effective planning and efficient operations in the city. This also affected the way the Council prioritises its work in different wards in the city. In some cases works were done based on the requests of councillors. Others were done based on budget, not according to benchmarks or proper priority.
The senior official, referring to the depth of the discussions undertaken during Commission hearings, told this newspaper that many of the officers have expressed the need for such serious sessions within the Council.
The officer noted that it is unfortunate that the Council does not use this method to improve its work and develop the city; over the years, council meetings have been characterised by squabbles and infightings, much to the discomfiture of citizens.
The Commission’s approach, the official opined, would lend to better coordination, better relations between Councillors and officers, and a more progressive municipality.
The officer stated that the amount of reflections, discussions, and planning that have gone into producing certain documents for the Commission was “amazing” and unprecedented, giving officers a greater sense of being part of the process of managing the Commission.
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