… they have put us back to “the dangerous days of thug politics”
By Kiana Wilburg
Instead of the principles of transparency and accountability being allowed to guide the work of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC), “a sickening stench of corruption is leading the way,” says Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan.
Duncan made this remark in an interview with Kaieteur News last night as he reflected on the actions relating to the parking meter scandal.
It was on Monday that top officials of M&CC told the media that regardless of the outrage by some sections of the society, the council will forge ahead with its parking meter contract with the National Parking Systems/Smart City Solutions (NPS/SCS).
In fact, the Council stated that it will create, from September, 1,500 parking spaces in the area between South Road and Church Street, and Water Street and Camp Street.
Present at that press conference were Mayor Patricia Chase-Green; Town Clerk, Royston King; Head of the Finance Committee, Oscar Clarke, and other administrative officers of the municipality.
These officials also came under fire for a trip to Mexico and Panama to check on how the consortium was managing the parking meters there.
The issue has been dominating headlines, with Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan, saying that he could find little evidence of the two companies and their work.
NPS is owned by US-based Guyanese, Ifa Kamau Cush, who had submitted a proposal since 1996.
Kaieteur News had found that NPS does not have an office at the Park Avenue, Manhattan address that it listed on its website. And there is little information on Smart City Solutions Inc., the company with which Cush teamed up.
Chase-Green told the media that it is a shame that some people had to resort to the likes of Google and Wikipedia to search for the address of the company. She said she was satisfied that she visited the company’s locations in Panama and Mexico and that their work is up to date.
The Mayor brazenly declared that she is not going to disclose the controversial parking meter contract. Her excuse was that the M&CC has had painful experiences in the past where documents were leaked, including a proposal by Canadian Bank Note, causing the city to lose. Rather, councilors have the possibility of perusing the contract at the office of the Town Clerk.
Meanwhile, Oscar Clarke on the matter said, “I have no apologies to make to anyone; I getting like Mr. Harmon.” He insisted that the Council’s decision to sign the agreement before going to see the actual product showed the investors that the City was indeed serious about implementing the parking meters around Georgetown.
The Finance Committee Chairman told the gathering that the only way they could have gone to do the physical verification, was by signing the contract back in November 2015. He informed that the sponsorship of the trips by National Parking Systems and Smart City Solutions was part of the contract they entered into.
According to Clarke, it would have been “unethical” for the contingent to use the finances of NPS to go on the verification trips having not signed the contract.
However, City Hall’s Deputy Mayor, Duncan, said that “such levels of arrogance are not only nauseating and sickening, but place Guyana right back to the days of executive thuggery.”
He said, “In this period in our history, people expect us to be more responsive to their concerns, because they elected us to office. They want to see a change. We are supposed to be more inclusive in what we are doing.
“But at no time was the issue of the parking meters put to the council for a vote. I believe that these actions only represent a clear circumvention of the process for ensuring that we secure a package that is free from corruption.”
Duncan continued, “The council is the supreme decision-making body and has an oversight function for all projects being undertaken by the City Hall. So to jump and say that you took a deliberate decision to not share the contract with the very council that was put in place, represents a dangerous and dark demon of the past.”
The Deputy Mayor emphasized that the Council does not consist of the “almighty” Clarke, Chase-Green and King but rather, the 30 members who sit at the “horseshoe table”.
He stressed that it is the Council that makes the policies and the decisions, and the Town Clerk is expected to carry them out.
He said that sentiments expressed by Chase-Green that the previous Council approved the contract are neither here nor there. He insisted that the new Council must have an opportunity to pronounce on all contracts or projects in the interest of the nation.
“I am shocked that this is the new dispensation. And I share the sentiments of Guyanese who are outraged by the tone and content of statements by the almighty trio, especially since they made it clear that they are not going to pause and listen to the concerns of the nation,” Duncan stated.
Additionally, Duncan lashed out at the Mayor’s arrogance for belittling those who were concerned that NPS has no credible address that can be located online.
“In this technologically advanced age, companies would normally have a proper website and their basic information can be found online, but we can’t do this in the case of NPS. Yet, you are rebuking those who can’t find them via such basic due diligence mechanisms? That is insanity.”
“This amount of high-handedness is frightening and is tantamount to spitting in the face of the citizenry.”
The Deputy Mayor insisted that he is going to stand up for transparency and accountability, and nothing shall stand in his way of doing so.
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