Now that there is clarity about the proposed Implementation Committee, Councillors and officers of the Georgetown municipality are ready and willing to embrace the move which they see as being geared at putting in place recommendations outlined in the Commission of Inquiry Report.
It was initially thought that the role of the Implementation Committee was to make decisions without the involvement and intervention of the council. City Mayor Hamilton Green had, at a press conference, had expressed his concern about the committee.
According to Mayor Green, after the report was cogitated by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall, a letter was sent to the municipality indicating a number of mechanisms as it relates to the report.
“They (The Ministry of Local Government) noted that the council accepted the report without much reservation and that they plan to set up an implementation committee to include two members of the council.”
However, Green related that he was forced to point out to the Minister both orally and in writing that two members will present a problematic situation as the council constitutes representatives of three political groups – The Good and Green Guyana, People’s National Congress Reform and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic.
“I believe that he accepted that and council at a meeting recommended three councillors to sit on the Implementation Committee,” Green disclosed.
However, a subsequent letter was sent to the municipality, the Mayor added. “Lo and behold a letter came saying don’t worry with that (the recommendation of three councillors) you identify a list of officers and we will select from that a list of persons to sit on the implementation committee.”
“To make the matter, what we consider an absurdity, even worse, the letter indicated that this Implementation Committee which will consist of other persons whose proposals would be binding on this council.”
At a statutory meeting, following this revelation, there was a near unanimous position with only three councillors failing to embrace the notion that the recommendations taken by the Ministry was unacceptable.
As a result, it was suggested at the meeting that the Acting Town Clerk, Mrs Yonette Pluck-Cort, and the Mayor inform the Minister of the council’s position.
However, at an extraordinary meeting on Monday which saw the attendance of the Minister and Commissioner of Inquiry, Keith Burrowes, the concerns of the council were categorically laid to rest.
According to the Minister although there have been many reports into the affairs of the municipality, this is the first time that efforts are being made to put in place a body to implement the recommendations.
“This is the first time that we are going to go the length and see to it that some of the things come out of the investigations…talking to the public, talking to councillors, talking to experts…and having in mind the fact that many things have been going on all over the world and that there are new best practices. We need to take all those things into consideration and move to another stage.”
It is expected that efforts will be made to look at the municipality’s present challenges and see how best they can be addressed. Some of the recommendations of the report including the dismissal of two officers – the Town Clerk and the City Treasurer – have already been effected.
Lall sought to emphasise that incorporating the Implementation Committee “is not a hurry up process. Let us not get the impression that this is a ‘bruk up and lick down’ committee. This is a committee that is going to work together with all stakeholders especially the City Council.”
According to the Minister, based on his understanding of the report there is a need for a steady approach to the issues raised. He underscored that the recommendations listed in the report are not the ‘usual’ type of recommendations but rather are broader, in depth and more contextual.
And there is no intent to have a two-tier (overseer body and technical body) Implementation Committee, said Minister Lall. He clarified that the Committee will be one established body to oversee the implementation of the decision.
“I am using the word oversee very studiously…because some people feel that somebody is going to come into the City Council walk into the offices and start giving commands and start shifting people and giving orders. It is not going to be like that I don’t know where these suspicions are coming from. I hope they stem merely from a misunderstanding and not from an agenda…”
Moreover, Lall pointed out that it has never been his expectation that the committee would work outside of the purview of the elected City Council. However, added support will be provided to both the council and the committee by Burrowes, according to the Minister, who noted that the move is not intended to be completed in a mere two weeks.
“I am glad that Mr Burrowes has committed himself to deal with the implementation in a similar manner in which he dealt with the Commission of Inquiry where he sought to bring everybody on board so that we move together.”
Legality of the Committee
A list of names has been submitted to the Minister and Burrowes from which members of the Committee will be selected. There is also likelihood that two technical officers of the council will also be included.
However, failure to have the Implementation Committee be put in place in a more profound way was due to the lack of legal advice, Burrowes asserted. However, Burrowes said that he has since asked two attorneys to provide him with opinions as to what is the best way forward.
Councillor Oscar Clarke, in expressing gratitude for Burrowes’s clarification of the process, said that based on the earlier correspondence from the Minister it was the council’s impression that the committee was being designed as “a City Manager through the backdoor. Certainly there must be concern about the legality of whatever approach we put in place…we want to be sure that whatever we do is legal.”
There must be legality in the approach that will be used for whatever is the implementation process that will be engaged, Clarke highlighted. He said that the council, having read, the Minister’s letter could not understand how the process could have proceeded even though there was no suggestion of legal authority for such a move.
Burrowes speculated that while letter that was sent to the council regarding the committee may have sent mixed signals, the reality is that anything recommended by the committee must have the blessings of the council.
He added that there should be technical people moving the process forward and the council agreeing on the best way to implement those recommendations within the municipality. Burrowes said that he has been able to generate resources towards the implementation adding that he has been talking with a few donors in hope of garnering additional resources to aid the process.
He noted that even before the committee members start meeting the cost of the implementing the recommendations of the process should be determined.
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