Persons and/or groups within the M&CC sought to frustrate the work of the Implementation Committee
With reference to the editorial (‘Is City Hall now compromised beyond redemption?’ SN, June19) which I must say is a good one, I would just like to add a few clarifications as to the responsibilities and the work done by the committees which I served on as both Commissioner of Inquiry and Chairman of the Implementation Committee of the Mayor and City Councillors of Georgetown. The information provided below seeks to add more context to the editorial and at the same time allow for a better understanding of the work done by the members of the committees.
Firstly I’d like to state that I was appointed in 2008 Commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in the Operations of the Mayor and City Councillors of Georgetown (M&CC) by the then Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr Kellawan Lall. The commission formally began its work in September 2008 and concluded in May 2009 and presented its report.
My mandate as commissioner was very clear and specific. Based on several issues raised in the Auditor General’s Report of 2008, a Commission of Inquiry was recommended which Terms of Reference (ToR) required an investigation into the offices of the City Treasurer and Town Clerk; the procedures regarding regulation of staff loans and advances; irregularities in rate collection; municipal accounts in commercial banks; and restructuring of municipal departments and their operations. The attached Commissioner’s Report, compiled in 3 volumes, clearly shows that the commission not only met its mandate but by far exceeded its terms of reference.
Upon the initial work by the commission, it was clear that what was required went far beyond just what was requested of me. At that time, I took a decision to conduct and prepare a comprehensive report outlining the inefficiencies of the M&CC and at the same time making the necessary recommendations to alleviate or correct the problems. The decision to go beyond my mandate as commissioner was done on my own accord and based on what I felt was my civic duty to the citizenry of Georgetown. As a result of this I prepared a report comprising of three volumes, which was subsequently reviewed and accepted by both the council members of the M&CC and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. With regard to the mandate those recommendations were received by the ministry at the time and the necessary actions were taken.
In 2009, following the submission of the Commissioner’s Report, the Minister of Local Government organized the Implementation Committee (IC) tasked primarily with monitoring and assisting the M&CC with the implementation of the recommendations made in the 2009 CoI Report. The establishment of this committee was based on my own suggestion whereby technical persons from a number of different organizations were allowed to aid the M&CC in implementing the recommendations of the CoI report. The recommendation was subsequently approved by both the Mayor and the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development. These persons were appointed as volunteers to work on the committee and were chosen not only for their skill sets but the fact that they were very much interested in ensuring a better Georgetown for all. As you will see in some of the cited examples they merely wanted the best for the citizenry and to have a well organized and functioning M&CC.
The IC gathered experience and expertise in areas such as Financing, Human Resource Management/Development, Information Technology, Debt Recovery, Audit, and Procurement among others. These persons were seconded to work under the Implementation Committee to give technical assistance to the M&CC.
Over the years the work done by these individuals was significant and should not be understated.
Nevertheless, persons and/or groups within the M&CC sought to frustrate the work of the IC by not being forthright, cooperative and receptive to the aid which was offered. One case in point, as I mentioned in a previous press briefing, the City Treasurer’s department was offered assistance by an IC member to sanitize and bring up to date its financial records and information along with preparing current and credible reports to produce to the Auditor General. Months passed and no information regardless of the numerous attempts made by the IC members was ever passed to that individual to do his work.
Another example, a database system was created to manage all of council’s taxpayers – “customers” – from a holistic approach, basically capturing all pertinent data both financial and bio data to allow management and staff to make timely, relevant and informed decisions when dealing with the taxpayers. To date this database has not been implemented.
Thousands of man hours and a great deal of assistance were given to the M&CC by members of the Implementation Committee even though they all had full-time jobs and other commitments. This was done in a situation of a difficult and at times, hostile M&CC; nonetheless, the members continued to function where applicable. However, the work by the IC members was clearly being frustrated and as a result the decision was taken by the Chairman of the IC to appoint a new member to the Implementation Committee, someone who was not in full-time employment with any organization and who had the time and of course the capacity and experience to conduct a thorough investigation into the extent to which the recommendations of the CoI report were implemented.
The new member, Mr Ramon Gaskin, was tasked with the responsibility to make adjudication on the extent to which those recommendations had been implemented. Those findings along with substantiated reports of corrupt practices within the M&CC were submitted to the Minister of Local Government, Mr Ganga Persaud by the Implementation Committee.
The above information clearly shows a lot of work was done by the committees which were set up, all of which was at no cost to the government or the M&CC. On this note, I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of both committees for the hard work and dedication and sacrifice they’ve made towards striving for a better and improved Georgetown municipality and I’d also like to thank Stabroek News for the editorial they’ve published to allow the readers a better understanding of the issues being faced at the M&CC.