The Story Within The Story…
By Leonard Gildarie
Kaieteur News – On Friday, President Irfaan Ali journeyed to Berbice. There were a number of side stories that came out that all Guyana should take notice of.
A little girl was presented with a tablet after her mother appeared before the Head of State.
An overseer was called to immediately take action after a senior citizen complained that a pile of dirt was affecting him and family for a while now but nothing was being done to remedy the situation. The overseer was told to fix the situation before the President left Berbice.
A senior citizen who applied since 2017 for his pension from the National Insurance Scheme will receive his cheque in a week.
These all came after the intervention of the President in Berbice on Friday.
While for the citizens, the decisions would be told in years to come to relatives and others, it was despair for me.
The last few months have been eye-opening ones. I am on Kaieteur Radio five days every week. The programme is simple…take some calls, talk on issues and try to address them as they arise.
But little did I know, people were really starved for a forum where they could air their views, ask questions and even criticize.
My life has been catapulted into another orbit. Some days I am convinced I am working with the government. I receive messages, calls at all hours or even verbal complaints and these would be passed on to the ministers or their assistants.
Water, electricity, internet, delays in old age pensions, NIS … the issues are many.
The education crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked deep worry by a populace that is already battling to make ends meet.
There has been one recurring theme in the complaints … problems in communities.
From poor infrastructure, including bridges, roads and drainage, persons have been complaining about the local government organs.
The Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) and Town Councils are all part of the local government structure.
It is simple. The Central Government will release funding to the organs which carry out some basic tasks.
The NDCs, largely, raise their revenues through rates and taxes. They also receive annually a subvention of a few millions.
The ministers and their staffers are not the ones who are charged with collecting garbage, cleaning drains and the general upkeep of the communities under their watch.
The NDCs, RDCs and Town Councils are the ones.
They are supposed to know how many buildings are in the communities, and the number of persons residing there.
When people squat and nothing is done, like what happened between Grove and Herstelling, East Bank Demerara, with the Venezuelan migrants on the Demerara River bed, it is a terrible indictment.
Too many stories are being told about the arrogance of council members who leading up to elections are the paragons of virtues.
As swiftly as the elections are completed, there is a marked change. It is as if there is a bitter divorce.
The point is, too often the blame is cast on the administration.
In this case, the buck stops at the Irfaan Ali administration. Would it be fair: would it be right for the administration to take the blame? Absolutely. It is how things are.
The time to stop this and hold those accountable has to be now.
For too long, the tail has been wagging the dog.
We allowed a few puff-out chests and party air heads to fool us for a long time. We sit by and watch them do their under-the-table deals and we continue to mutter under our breath about the clogged drains and illegal structures, and so many other wrongs.
How does one explain an illegal building that all can see daily and question but there are no actions from our NDCs, RDCs and Town Councils?
How does one explain that 60 percent of the residents don’t pay their rates and taxes and for years the bodies don’t collect or fail to take actions? How can these bodies justify the neglect and holes in the Diamond access road that has been there for months?
Why would you want them to continue to be there?
On Thursday, Local Government Minister, Nigel Dharamlall, reportedly met with the Region Four RDC. That RDC’s jurisdiction is the Demerara/Mahaica area.
The minister later disclosed that he made it clear that the functions of officials cannot be mixed up.
The Regional Executive Officers are the ones who handle payments for the regions.
“Councillors involved in requisitioning and receiving multimillion-dollar quotations in their names as happened is not permissible. It is an egregious form of corruption,” the minister wrote on his Facebook page.
The RDC was accused of only completing a quarter of its projects despite the year is almost finished.
Dharamlall warned that assets of the region are managed by the administration and not at the personal disposal of councillors as may have happened and seem to be continuing.
I go back to the visit of President Ali to Berbice on Friday. He told officials and representatives from the ministries/agencies gathered to guarantee impartiality and fairness when dealing with concerns raised.
“You have to respect the people and the issues which are raised … You are not dealing with personalities, you are dealing with issues.”
He said, “Today we are not here to look at issues for two or three weeks, we are here to resolve problems. For the ordinary people on the ground, there will be greater connection between the people and the government and greater connection between the agencies and the people. There will be better understanding of concerns and problems that the people are facing on the ground.”
Do we need a clearer message from the President?
The local government organs and government officials must understand what it really means when they asked the people for their permission to represent them.
They are under probation until the populace decides to confirm them.
They are, every few years, subjected to a review and can expect to be sacked.
That review is, of course, election.
It is time for people to say enough is enough. That arrogance, corruption and tardiness will not be condoned.
Heads must roll!
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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