As controversy continues to swirl over a project to install parking meters in the city, Government
has ordered a review.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, yesterday confirmed that the matter was brought up on Tuesday during a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. He said that the Ministry of Finance and Attorney General Chambers have been mandated to examine the contract for any illegalities.
The parking meter project has been generating heavy criticism against the Mayor and City Councillors with members divided.
A contract was signed last November under the last council, by Town Clerk, Royston King, for a consortium to spend US$10M to install solar-powered parking meters around the city.
However, several of the new councillors, including Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan, have been complaining bitterly of limited information. They complained to Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, who expressed concerns last week.
On Monday, the council said that he was presented with a copy of the contract and was expected to take the matter to Cabinet for discussions.
During the post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday, Minister Harmon confirmed that Cabinet discussed the city council’s initiative to introduce paid parking along selective streets as a means open to it to garner revenue.
“While Cabinet is committed to honouring its principle of respecting the independence and authority of our municipalities and NDCs (Neighbourhood Democratic Councils), it nonetheless decided that given that Georgetown is a capital city and that the decisions made by the Town Council will affect all Guyanese who have to come into the city, a decision was made to have the contract reviewed by the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General’s Chambers.”
Harmon was quick to point out that under current laws, the councils are allowed to operate independently.
“The important point that we need to make here is that the council is a young council; that we believe that the councils must operate independently… that government will not interfere with the running of these councils, but that if indeed the claims that there is something wrong about this contract; if there is some illegality about it, then certainly Government has a responsibility to have a look at the contract itself.”
According to Harmon, the intentions will be for the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General’s Chambers to have a look at the contract to see whether in fact there is anything in the contract that is closely resembling the complaints that have been made by citizens.
“Government will not over-reach into the Council’s business, but because of the importance of Georgetown… because decisions made will affect all of Guyana it is important that we look at the contract that has been made. That is the position that Cabinet took.”
Questioned what happens if something is found illegal with the contract, the Minister admitted that there are avenues to take actions, including through the law enforcement arms of the state, the Attorney General’s Chamber and the Director of Public Prosecution.
Any one of the bodies is capable of giving advice on the course of actions in such a scenario.
However, Harmon warned, the review has nothing to do with the rates for parking on selected streets in Georgetown.
On Monday, during a press conference at City Hall to defend the contract, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green announced that it is expected the first phase of the project will be rolled out by September 1, next.
Some 1,500 parking spaces will be erected between Stabroek, South Road, Camp Street and Church Street.
The pilot project will include the busy Regent and Robb Streets.
She also said that talks will be held with banks and other city commercial businesses on how parking will be handled.
The Mayor disclosed that the fees, which were touted at $500 per hour, was still being negotiated with the consortium and is expected to be way less.
The consortium is National Parking System and Smart City Solutions Inc. Research had found little information for both companies.
On Monday, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green; Town Clerk, Royston King; Head of the Finance Committee, Oscar Clarke; Finance Committee member, Junior Garrett, and other administrative officers of the municipality hosted a press conference to defend the project and a recent trip to Mexico and Panama paid for by the consortium.
The due diligence visit would have come months after the contract was signed, raising eyebrows whether it was proper.
However, the officials insisted the visit was above board and that the consortium indeed had bona fide credentials.
Checks by Kaieteur News had found that NPS did not have an office at the Park Avenue, Manhattan address that it listed on its website. There was also little information on Smart City Solutions Inc., the company with which Cush teamed up.
The consortium is promising to invest US$10M.
The officials made it clear that all contracts for M&CC are signed by the Town Clerk with the one with the consortium handled under the previous council. New councillors were brief this year.
Chase-Green warned that she is not prepared to release the contract to the public as there have been painful experiences in the past where documents were leaked, including a proposal with the Canadian Bank Note, causing the city to lose. Rather, councillors have the possibilities of perusing the contract at the office of the Town Clerk.
It was disclosed that the parking meter project, which will bring in 20 percent of the gross of the revenues to the city, with zero investment by the council, will also see the hiring of more than 100 workers.
The 20 percent was arrived at after intense negotiations with the players, the city officials said.
Chase-Green was critical of media coverage which claimed she was in Mexico to purchase parking meters. She said that she is not a procurement officer. Rather her trip to Mexico and Panama was to have a first-hand view on how the system works.
She was also critical of concerns raised, saying that it was unfortunate that persons had taken to social media.
She stressed that minutes of the May 23 meeting would tell a story of the how the City Council was fully aware of the Mexico trip.
According to the minutes, the council, including the Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan, was told that Smart City Solution Inc. had invited M&CC to view its operations and that the invitation was accepted.
Questioned about the lack of internet information on the consortium, an upset Mayor declared that it would not be enough to use Google and Wikipedia and the consortium is very real and the facts of what was on the ground in Panama and Mexico would speak for itself.
According to the city officials, the final costs for using the meters are still being negotiated with the drivers definitely not having to pay $500 per hour as is being reported.
Already, the consortium has shipped a parking meter which will be used for demonstrations.
The city officials said that under the system, the city would be able to view when a car is parked, whether the ticket has been paid and when the vehicle would have moved. There will be communications with monitors on the road and daily online information about what the parking meters are raking in.
Eventually, smart phones will be used to determine where the available parking spaces are in the city.
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