– awaits injunction to reverse GPL disconnection move
By Sharmain Cornette
While the use of a generator has been employed to power the operations at City Hall, the abattoir and a number of other municipal buildings up to yesterday remained without electricity.
Yesterday, too, the municipality was still attempting to secure an injunction to reverse the move by the Guyana Power and Light inc. (GPL) to effect disconnections to the municipal buildings due to the City Council’s inability to honour an electricity bill valued at more than $600M.
“We simply do not have the money to pay and it is overwhelmingly obvious that we are working with a very narrow revenue base,” said Public Relations Officer, Royston King. He attributed the municipality’s inability to pay, to the failure on the part of big businesses, the likes of GPL, to honour their obligation to pay rates and taxes.
“Rates and Taxes represent 80 percent of our revenue base so when big companies such as GPL don’t pay up we face a terrible problem in fulfilling our own obligations, including paying GPL and other contractors. There is a reciprocal effect between GPL not paying and council not paying them,” King explained.
Neither entity has sought to consult with each other since the disconnection process on Monday. Last week, the two were engaged in discussions with the view of reaching a payment agreement. However, those discussions did not end on a positive note, prompting the power company to effect the disconnection process.
According to King, the municipality is still very willing to continue talks with GPL given the fact that it owes more than $700M in rates and taxes. In the meantime, he noted that the municipality will not letup in its quest to harness GPL’s move through legal proceedings. “The process seems to be taking long, but the administration is following procedure. We want to ensure that once we take action it is sound and that we can get the kind of results we are looking for.”
King disclosed that the unconscionable move by GPL has even impacted the operations at the Albouystown Health Clinic which provides a service to more than 300 residents on a monthly basis. He said he got a report from the municipal Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jeffrey, yesterday morning, stating that electricity supply to the clinic had been disconnected. As a result, staffers were forced to remove vaccines stored there to another location. “One can only imagine the inability of council to now provide health services to the area of Albouystown and contiguous communities,” King stressed.
The services offered by the municipality, he noted, are basically about public health and public safety, thus the disconnection of electricity will ultimately render the services unavailable. Slaughtering of cattle at the abattoir has been effectively grounded to a halt, he said, as the continuance of the process could put at risk the health of citizens with the facility being unable to fulfil all of the requirements to produce wholesome meat.
The disconnection of the abattoir, according to Chief Meat and Food Inspector, Jagdeep Singh, has resulted in the loss of the abattoir’s water supply which he noted could only serve to create a major hygienic catastrophe. At the time of the abattoir’s disconnection on Monday, about 50 bovines were already slaughtered. On average, a total of 60 cattle are slaughtered on a daily basis, an amount which usually increases significantly as the Christmas season approaches, Singh divulged. “This is really going to affect us. Because of this we cannot take in anymore animals for slaughtering. This means that we would definitely have to stop operation altogether,” Singh had lamented on Monday.
In addition to City Hall and the Abattoir, other municipal buildings disconnected include facilities attached to the Cemetery, the Solid Waste Management Department and the municipal mechanical workshop.
GPL has however, withheld its wrath from the city street lights, the municipal markets, the municipal clinic located on South Road and its day care centres at South Road and Industrial Site.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Bharrat Dindyal, in an invited comment yesterday said that it is expected that the two entities will be able to have an audience today to discuss the problem. He disclosed that the power company was forced to take the drastic action as this is the first year that the municipality has not attempted to honour even part of its mounting electricity bills. “Usually they would pay…But this year something is wrong. They have not paid a single cent and we need to know why,” Dindyal stated emphatically.
At the meeting today, the CEO noted that GPL will be seeking an explanation from the municipality. He further pointed out that reconnection of the municipality’s building will not be dependent on the payment of a fixed amount, but rather the municipality’s willingness to state honestly its financial state in order for an agreement to be derived. In the past, agreements were made that the municipality pay on a monthly basis, but would usually flop in a matter of months, according to Dindyal.
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