Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Ganga Persaud believes that Local Government Elections would be the solution to the troubling rift between the elected representatives and the administration of City Hall.
The holding of Local Government Elections is said to be dependent on President Donald Ramotar’s assent to the four Local Government Elections Bills that were passed in the National Assembly on August 7, last.
Yesterday, Persaud said that he spoke to Ramotar about the matter on Friday but is currently unaware of the status of the Bills.
In the interim, remedying the rift at City Hall seems to be a large task if not impossible. Persaud said that the ongoing problems at City Hall are negatively impacting the day-to-day operations of Georgetown citizens.
He said that every citizen deserves a clean healthy environment with City Hall maximizing revenues. Routine garbage collection, clean streets, parapets and waterways, and organized market places must not be a dream but a reality only achieved through cooperation.
Persaud emphasized that naive political bickering must be eliminated from City Hall and elected Councillors led by the Mayor and the administration led by the Town Clerk must be able to work together.
He lamented that the operations of City Hall should not be complicated since they are governed by the Laws. However, the problems arise when individuals breach the code of ethics and overlap their duties.
One of the most recent problematic scenarios at City Hall is the Town Clerk suing Publisher of Kaieteur News Glenn Lall, Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram and Mayor Hamilton Green’s wife Dr. Jennifer Basdeo, purportedly for outstanding taxes.
According to a source at City Hall, Town Clerk, Carol Sooba’s action is part of a smear campaign to tarnish the reputations of persons not supportive of Government’s wrongdoings. But, Persaud believes that Sooba’s selective debt recovery campaign is progressing smoothly. He explained that Sooba is going through her register and is taking the names in batches.
He claims not to understand the exchange of cheques arrangements both Lall and Ram seem to have had with City Hall. And, though City Hall’s Public Relations Officer Royston King confirmed that the entity owes Kaieteur News, the Minister maintains that the media owes City Hall.
Persaud said the information is not with City Hall’s Finance Department and Sooba is unaware of such and therefore City Hall does not owe Kaieteur News $7.1M. If indeed City Hall owes Kaieteur News and King knows about the transactions King should pay the media house since he did not inform the Finance Department.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) also believes that Local Government Elections would solve the problems at City Hall.
Khemraj Ramjattan, Leader of the AFC, weighing in on the matter said that his party is very concerned about the rift and operations of City Hall.
Ramjattan believes that Local Government Elections would allow the election of new Councillors, good governance, massive decision for management, cooperation and sharing of information.
He said that the problems in City Hall are politically motivated with Central Government using the Town Clerk to frustrate the Council. Ramjattan believes that the Town Clerk is being used as a diversion from Government’s wrongdoings onto City Hall matters.
Ramjattan said that as the Chief Manager of City Hall, Sooba acted inappropriately to make a decision to sue Lall, Ram and Dr. Basdeo without ventilating the matter with Councillors at a meeting.
He said it seems that Sooba is going to Tokyo while Councillors are heading to New York. Ramjattan said that there is definitely a lack of communication at City Hall for the situation to exist where Councillors welcome exchange of cheques to offset expenditures and the Town Clerk is claiming no knowledge of the agreements.
According to Anand Goolsarran, former Auditor General, the Town Clerk is responsible for the financial accounting matters of City Hall while the Mayor is the political leader responsible for policies.
He explained their roles somewhat mirror that of Permanent Secretaries and Ministers in Government Ministries. However, within recent times the powers of Ministers seem to be increasing.
He said Sooba ought to have sought Council’s approval first before filing the lawsuits. In the event City Hall does not win the cases the responsibility is not solely hers. Goolsarran explained that at a Statutory meeting the decision to sue taxpayers could have been discussed rather than bypassing the Council.
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