Nov 22, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – City Mayor, Ubraj Narine, is clearing the air on the reported debts of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC).
According to the Mayor, the M&CC has a debt of $5B which it wants to clear but cannot tackle the enormous sum without the assistance of the Central Government.
“City Hall’s debt dates back to 1994… we owe like $100M to garbage collection contractors; $400M to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and over $20M in retroactive salaries among the liabilities,” the Mayor said. He added that previous reports about City Hall asking Government for a bailout of $500M in debts is inaccurate.
“That report is not accurate because I never asked Government for a bail out on $500M debt when we have such a huge debt of $5B. I asked government to let us go through the liabilities together so that they can have their input in the situation to help better manage the liabilities of the municipality,” Narine added.
According to the Mayor, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) is struggling to pay staffers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has recorded a 78 percent decrease in revenue earnings.
Speaking on the issue, Mayor Narine said: “Our revenue drop here is about 78 percent. We are actually struggling to pay staffers. Our salary and wages scale is $120M per month. We owe NIS over $400M since 1993. I am dealing with that issue now.”
As such, the Mayor said that the government’s input is a necessary part in planning a strategy to deal with City Hall’s massive debt.
In this regard, Mayor Narine said that he is still willing to work with the Ministry of Local Government.
“I want us to have a roundtable discussion to deal with the liability. I also welcome any form of audit into City Hall because I read that Minister wants to audit City Hall first. I welcome this action,” the Mayor said.
Meanwhile, Local Government Minister, Nigel Dharamlall has maintained that the financial support for municipalities hinges on the ability of each council to account for their expenditure of the sum dispersed.
“There is definitely a need for more accountability of the expenditure of millions of dollars in subvention dispersed to the various councils by Central Government, annually,” Dharamlall said.
The Local Government Minister said, too, that the municipalities must account for any subvention/tranche that they receive.
“I intend to work closely with the Georgetown and other councils to ensure that the taxes they collect are well spent and managed properly. We are looking to ensure that the same goes for the subvention that they receive each year; that is well spent and accounted for. In the past, all subventions these councils received, they kept but I intend to ensure that every tranche they receive now is accounted for,” he said with an interview with this newspaper.
City Hall has been struggling for years now, with mismanagement, corruption, political interference all blamed.
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