Amidst calls for the establishment of a Local Government Commission, (LGC) Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan has said that steps will be taken in the coming week, towards setting up the commission.
In a brief conversation with this newspaper on the issue, Minister Bulkan noted that he will be presenting the names of possible candidates to the commission for Cabinet approval, this week.
Bulkan stressed that although the LGC is part of allowing the democratic function of the local government authorities, its absence has not necessarily been detrimental to local government reform.
Bulkan asserted that the efforts of reform have moved apace, despite the absence of the commission.
In its simplest definition, the LGC, provided for under article 78A of the Constitution, would, as it deems fit, deal with all matters related to the regulation and staffing of local government organs, and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs.
When operational, the Commission is expected to reduce the influence of Central Government by placing the oversight of local democratic organs under the purview of a commission, and not a government ministry. With the operationalisation of the commission, the ministry will be freed of many of the administrative issues that have to be dealt with in relation to the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and the municipalities.
The Commission would comprise eight members, four nominated by Government, one nominated by the unions operating in the local government sector, and three nominated by the Opposition.
The legislation for the LGC came into being in late 2013, but the body’s operationalisation required a commencement order which was not given, up until the end of 2015. The Communities Minister inherited this undertaking, and subsequently provided funding for the Commission’s start-up in the 2016 budget. The work towards setting up the system has stalled since then.
However, following recent calls for the establishment of the Commission, Minister Bulkan said that progress will be made in regard to setting up the Commission.
During a recent press briefing, Dr David Hinds of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) noted that even though Guyana has finally seen the return of Local Government Elections (LGE), the country still has a long way to go before realizing a full return of democracy at this level of governance.
He made those remarks in relation to the non-establishment of the LGC.
”We feel that the Local Government Commission is long overdue, and that it should be put in place as soon as possible. We take local government very seriously. Guyana had Local Government Elections, but we think we should go further than just Local Government Elections.”
Dr. Hinds continued, “There should be much more reform in the Local Government system. One of the things we have advocated in the past is a return of the village councils, because we feel at that basic level in the community, we should be involved in making decisions”.
Dr. Hinds said that the WPA is totally for the deepening of local governance. He added that Guyana has progressed in some areas, but in the WPA’s opinion, the nation needs to move further than it currently has.
“Certainly we would like to see the Local Government Commission be put in place, and for the people in the communities to become much more involved in making decisions.”
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