Oct 29, 2010 News
– several contracts incomplete
With just over two months remaining in the year, Region Four has used less than half of the moneys allocated by Central Government.
As a matter of fact, it is more than clear now that there is an all-out attempt to suppress development in Region 4 (Demerara/Mahaica), and evidence of widespread intervention by government officials in the running of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) affairs.
This was the accusation made yesterday by Region Four Chairman, Clement Corlette who also indicated intentions to apprise his party, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) of a number of critical issues.
Among the most glaring cases, Corlette opines, is the upcoming 50th Annual National School Cycling, Swimming and Track and Field Championships 2010.
He emphasized that Region Four is hosting the event this year, but Central Government is refusing to release funds to prepare the schools that will house athletes.
“We at the RDC in conjunction with the National Planning Committee have approved schools for the use as the Games Village including Covent Garden Secondary and Primary, Providence Primary, Peter’s Hall Primary and Eccles Primary.”
“To renovate and prepare the schools was quantified to cost $14.7M. Requests were made to Government Ministers, Shaik Baksh and Kellawan Lall, for financial assistance since Region 4 was not provided with allocated funds in the 2010 budget.
Minister Baksh seemed to have ignored my letter to him dated 11th October, 2010, while (Minister) Kellawan Lall refused to support our request for funding,” Corlette told this newspaper.
He accused the government of arbitrarily taking over the event.
“The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and the Ministry of Education arbitrarily commandeered control of the final stages of planning and implementation of the agenda for the staging of the games to blunt Region 4 from exuding success and capacity. The Ministers of the Government used their leverage to stifle Region 4 of funds so as to move in and seize control over the final preparation for the games.”
According to Corlette, in 2009, the games were held in Region 6, East Berbice, and from all information available, that Region was allowed to preside over all aspects of the preparation and execution of the games using funds from its budget.
“The situation is ample evidence that Region 4 is under suffocating pressures all the time by the government. In Region 4, the Clerk/Regional Executive Officer and officers maintained a position that there are no funds available to finance the preparation for the hosting of the games, hence request was made to the Ministry of Finance for funds; but to no avail.”
Another issue that clearly showed more interference without regards to procedures had to do with the operations of the ambulance services on the East Coast of Demerara.
“The health services on the East Coast Demerara are without an ambulance service for six weeks now. Motor ambulance PGG 3150 which was based at the Dr. C.C. Nicholson Cottage Hospital was found to be defective.”
According to Corlette, the RDC’s statutory meeting on September 21 ordered the withdrawal of the ambulance from service due to serious mechanical defects including faulty brake system, electrical problems, non-functional lights and absence of equipment for emergency assistance.
An ambulance from the East Bank Demerara was assigned to take over from the defective ambulance and to operate from the Dr. C.C. Nicholson Cottage Hospital.
“To date, the Clerk/Regional Executive Officer has failed/refused to carry out the orders of the Council.
So no ambulance is available to support our regional health services because of ministerial intervention.
“Minister Kellawan Lall is reported to have instructed the Clerk/REO not to cause the withdrawal of the ambulance. The East Bank Demerara-based ambulance was parked for over two months – notwithstanding it is in good working order- due to the retirement of the substantive driver for having attained the age of 55.”
Corlette also accused government officials of stepping in frequently and issuing orders without any contact with the region’s administration.
“Apart from the ambulance issue, numerous reports have and are being received of frequent visits by the Ministry of Health Officials into regional hospitals and health centers in Region 4.
On their visits, it has been alleged that they issue orders, countermand local supervising and management officials and set out their own systems and procedures much to the consternation of hapless, local regional health workers.”
The Region 4 Chairman also alleged that the officials would assign and re-assign medical doctors at their will without reference to the Regional Health Officer, East Coast Demerara/East Bank Demerara.
“A disturbing element of Central Government’s Ministers intrusion into the business of Region 4 has to do with the undocumented nature of the orders or instructions. Whereas, regional officers such as the REO, Regional Health Officer and other officers diligently comply with ministerial orders and instructions, they are less compliant with observing instructions/decisions of the RDC or the Regional Chairman. They are also unable to produce general official instrument to support their compliance with orders emanating from non-RDC directive.”
The situation is now at crisis level where government ministers seem to believe that they have absolute right or authority to disregard elected regional leaders and give orders to regional staff, according to their whims and fancy, Corlette said.
“As a consequence of the situation, regional officers such as the Clerk/REO, the Regional Health Officer and the Engineer believe that they can or should ignore the orders/directive of the Regional Chairman and or the Regional Democratic Council.”
According to the official, the Works Committee of Region 4 has repeatedly complained that a large number of works are being executed without its knowledge due to the withholding of information and documents relating to contracts and bill of quantity.
“On many instances, the Committee is only apprised of the work and issue, after the contract the work would have been completed. The known established rules are after a contract has been awarded, the Engineer is to issue a copy of the contract and Bill of Quantity to the Works Committee’s Chairman. The Chairman is to thereafter visit the worksite prior to commencement of the work; one or more visits may be made while the work is in progress. On the completion of the work, a final visit is to be made to ascertain compliance to the required specification.”
The Region 4 Chairman was of the opinion that the continued reluctance to involve the Works Committee in all stages of the execution of a contract is a cause to suspect that all may not be above board.
“A large number of contractors have been alleging that they are owed for work done months ago. However, the financial records show that a vast amount of the region’s allocation is yet to be used. The above situation indicates that the financial officers may be under Central Government pressure to suppress the RDC Works Program for 2010 to allow hefty reclamation of the unused allocation by the Ministry of Finance.”
Pointing out that only two months remain for the fiscal year before unused moneys have to be handed back, Corlette said that the Regional Chief Accounting Officers seems unwilling or afraid to provide prudent answers to the Regional Chairman and RDC on the cause for such massive unused amounts of funds.
“It must be noted that ten months have been completed for the fiscal year 2010. The people within Region 4 are being denied the benefit of the plans of the regional council because of Central Government’s interference and control.
While for the year, Central Government allocated $12M under Public Works for roads. Records indicate that none has been spent, Corlette noted. In the allocation for education, $55M was earmarked for schools to be rehabilitated, but only $22M spent.
“We have many school fences in Region 4 that need repairs. About $23M was allocated but less than half spent. How is this fair to the people who live in the region and to us who will be accused?”
Under the region’s Drainage and Irrigation programme, $85M was set aside for maintenance. Just less than half was used with indications that several major works are still outstanding.
The situation was the same for the road programmes, with $32.5M allocated but only $4.5M used.
“Many regional roads are yet to be undertaken or paid for,” the Chairman said.
It would not be the first time that the Region’s Chairman would be clashing with the PPP/C administration over moneys being allocated to the region.
Government officials have also criticised the attitude of Corlette, accusing him of being authoritarian.
Attempts were made yesterday to contact Nigel Dharamlall, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, for a comment, but his phone rang out on each occasion.
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