The resumption of garbage collection by private contractors will be welcome by most citizens, but the manner in which this resumption took place will leave a stench that will permanently pollute relations between itself and the Council.
Citizens will now be able to exhale since for some time now the capital has been so stink, because of the garbage pile up, that citizens have been holding in their breaths trying to avoid the disgusting odour.
It has been reported that the government has reached an agreement with the private contractors, but this agreement was reportedly done behind the backs of Council and it is this latter fact, rather than the resumption of regular garbage collection, that is going to leave a heavy odour between Central government and the municipality.
The private contractors had withdrawn their services following the non-payment of a large sum owed to them by City Hall. The dispute was therefore one between the contractors and the Council. The latter claimed to be cash-strapped and unable to pay the contractors who were forced to withdraw their services.
The government had an interest in ensuring that garbage collection resumed, but it was the wrong approach for the government to have entered talks and reached an agreement to pay the contractors without the consent of City Hall.
Quite frankly, the government acted inappropriately. The government does not owe the contractors any sum. The government may have an interest in keeping the city free of garbage, but it has no authority and it is highly inappropriate for the government to have settled any debt of the Council without the direct participation, and as it now seems, without the knowledge of the Council.
It is like you owing me some money. A third party knows that you owe me so without speaking to you, the third party pays me.
The government in effect has settled part of the debt owed by the City Council, but has not asked the Council whether it is okay to do so. If this is the way that things are going to be done in the country, then we have a crisis of governance of unimaginable proportions.
The Council, through the Mayor, has reacted disapprovingly to what has happened. The non- involvement of the Council in the payment of the contractors smacks of high-handedness and ought not to be condoned.
The hands of the Council are no doubt tied, because they do not have the resources to pay the contractors.
As such they may find it hard to inform the contractors that it is wrong for the latter to resume work without the consent of the Council.
The Council will now, as a result of this, have to swallow its pride, put its tail between its feet and accept the totally unacceptable situation, whereby garbage collection will resume without the go-order from Council.
Perhaps if the Council was on a surer footing, it would have advised the contractors to go to the government for all future payments.
For the vast majority of citizens, the main thing is not the principles that have been violated, but the fact that the collection of garbage will resume. They will now no longer face the problems and attendant costs associated with the disposal of their refuse. For most, the government’s intervention would have been welcome.
But all that has been achieved is a temporary respite. For while the Council would have been bailed out of this situation, there is no evidence that City Hall is anywhere near having the capacity to sustain the costs of garbage collection.
The present intervention by the government is therefore just a stop-gap measure; the problem of paying private garbage collectors is likely to remain just that, a problem.
Relations have so soured between the government and the municipality that there seems no hope of any agreement that would bring an end to the quarrel between the two sides.
There will continue to be charges and counter charges about the government stifling the financial stability of the Council and about the Council’s high management expenses.
The only permanent remedy in sight is local government elections and this is not likely to be held before general elections.
The PPP is expected to sweep the national vote in general elections, but when it comes to local elections, the PPP is not likely to prevail in the City and therefore this merry-go-round between the municipality and Central government is expected to continue way into the distant future.
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