By Sharmain Cornette
Without considering whether there will be any operational ramifications, government has taken a decision to release monies it owes to the municipality in rates and taxes, only if it will be directed primarily to the payment of garbage contractors, Cevon’s Waste Management Service and Puran Brothers Waste Disposal Service.
Reports are that some $50M has been promised to the two contractors who resumed operation yesterday. They are expected to receive a portion of the money before the end of the week. However, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall, at a press conference yesterday did not confirm the amount which is expected to be paid to the contractors. He however, did note that it is a satisfactory amount.
Government owes the municipality some $80M in taxes which represents payment for the second and third quarter of this year. The contractors are owed just over $60M.
Lall, under whose purview the municipality operates, disclosed yesterday that Government had decided to make the move having realised that the matter had become one of national concern. The monies owed, he said, will be paid to the contractors over the next four months and any remainder will be given over to the municipal coffers.
Waste disposal contractors withdrew their services from the municipality a few months ago due to the municipality’s inability to pay for services rendered.
“The contractors have withheld their services for almost 60 days and there is no solution in sight that the Council is coming up with, so the State is stepping up and saying that what we owe the council and we are going to utilise part of it to pay these contractors.”
According to the Minister, the intent is to pay the taxes directly to the Council with the expectation that the money will be filtered to contractors.
“We will have to officially pay our rates and taxes…we know it has to be done through the council. If we were to pay the contractors directly, I don’t think we can expect the council to record that as a payment of rates and taxes. It would be unfair for me to expect them to do that.”
The Minister revealed that the decision to pay is backed by a verbal agreement that was made with officers of the council.
Prior to hosting a press conference yesterday, the Minister had engaged the Acting Town Clerk, Yonette Pluck-Cort; Acting City Treasurer, Andrew Meredith and City Engineer, Gregory Erskine, in a forum at which the basis for the payment was made.
“We are not doing this for any underhand reason” the minister insisted, even as he acknowledged that the municipality is operating under severe financial pressure. For this reason, he said that it has been recognised that there is need to help the municipality to secure its finances.
“If they were to put this money in their general till, come Friday they may pay it out to something else that council defines as a priority and they may not pay the people (contractors). We are not trying to withhold our taxes or anything, but we know that every few months we come up with this problem.”
According to the Minister, there is need for the municipality to get into more serious contractual obligations with the contractors and ensure that they are properly monitored and do what they are paid to do. The Minister disclosed that he was made to understand that the duties of the contractors do not merely entail collecting household garbage, but also to do some cleaning within specified sections of the city in which they operate. The Minister also appealed for residents of the city to, as a far as possible, put their household waste in garbage bags, even if they are stored in bins.
Meanwhile, City Mayor Hamilton Green, noted that while he is pleased that the Government has come forward to assist efforts to pay the contractors, it is in no way a gift but a debt owed. And while not admitting that the agreement to pay the contractors is a ministerial order, the Acting Town Clerk noted that “we cannot sit with the minister and not think it (the agreement) is not binding.”
On Monday, President Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister Lall met with the waste disposal contractors and forged an agreement which saw the contractors resuming operations.
Man charged with murdering stepfather
Gordon Thomas, of Johanna Cecilia, was yesterday not required to plead to the indictable offence of murder when he appeared before Magistrate Hazel Octive-Hamilton at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
The allegation is that Thomas, on August 5 at Johanna Cecilia, murdered his 74-year-old stepfather, Kenneth Lynch. As the charge was read to the man he stood calmly in the prisoners’ dock. He was unrepresented.
Police Prosecutor Stephen Telford asked for the accused to be remanded and that the matter be transferred to the Suddie Magistrate’s court for August 16. These requests were granted.
According to reports, the elderly man succumbed to injuries after he was badly beaten, allegedly by Thomas. Relatives had said that Thomas and Lynch had an ongoing problem and quarreled a lot. It is alleged that Thomas was under the influence of alcohol when the incident happened.
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