Commission of Inquiry has helped City Hall

Dear Editor,
We at City Hall, have always held and still do hold the view that citizens need to be kept informed on all issues directly affecting the management and governance of their local community, in particular, and their city, in general. This is necessary for two reasons:

(i) To encourage civic participation by key stakeholders in the way their local communities are managed by the council, and
(ii) to encourage public sympathy and cooperation in our efforts to improve conditions in the city.

No public entity, the municipality of Georgetown included, can effectively manage its responsibility without the participation and cooperation of its shareholders or stakeholders.

However, citizens can only adequately participate if they are empowered to get involved. Empowerment comes through knowledge and knowledge through timely, accurate and trustworthy information.

Last year, the Minister of Local Government prompted by concerns raised in the 2007 Auditor General’s report, appointed a Commission of Inquiry to examine certain operations of the council. It is against this background we feel obliged to bring citizens up to date on the work of the commission, albeit while remaining aware that the work is still in progress.

The inquiry is currently in its fifth month and while it is close to completion, some two months have passed since the original deadline for completion. The Commissioner, Mr Keith Burrowes, has stated in several reports carried in the local press, that he was more concerned about the integrity of the findings and recommendations than with expedition.

It should be noted that the Mayor and City Council is an extremely complex organization with a culture that is over one hundred years old; each department and unit within a department possesses its own sub-culture. The inquiry has necessarily therefore had to go beyond quick fixes or personalities. It has had to address the core problems we face. The ultimate result should be the ability to develop a model which can actually spur organizational change and begin a process that would transform the municipality into a modern organization with the capacity to deliver appropriate and quality services to the citizens of Georgetown.
The commission permitted all the key actors within and beyond the council to share information on their perceptions of the council and their responsibilities towards the city of Georgetown. Also, it provided a forum for members of the public with specific complaints and reports about any aspect of the city, to bring them before the commission in full public view.

At the same time, it provided the Commissioner with the opportunity to understand the deep-seated problems which continue to stymie our advancement toward a modern city, and inhibit our attempts to improve conditions in the Georgetown.

The Commissioner and officer corps of the municipality interacted in an atmosphere of cordiality, on their specific statutory and supportive functions and duties. Senior management officials and middle managers were required to make oral and written presentations on their official assignments and obligations, both on a one-on-one basis and in groups. This provided three distinct but related benefits. It facilitated inter-departmental and cross-departmental sharing and analyzing of information in every area of our responsibility. This resulted in the cross-fertilization of ideas, enhanced and new strategies, more practical tactics and more coordination in our work. Again, this construct provided a useful tool for us to measure our performance in the sixty wards of Georgetown. Immediately, we were able to identify the gaps in our collective effort to change conditions in the city. For example, in April 1970, the city was extended from 2.5 sq miles to 15 sq miles, but there was no accompanying plan to increase the capacity and resources of the council to service the additional areas. As a consequence, there was a concomitant decline in the ability of council to provide for the basic needs of the additional local communities.

The work of the commission allowed management to reflect in a deeper way on what they are required by statute to do, and how we can better serve citizens. As a result, officers are working to develop new and modern systems that would make our operations more democratic, more transparent and more participatory.

Simultaneously, the Commissioner has been given insight into the functions and operations of the municipality, and to understand our language and interrelationships.

It was particularly heartening to hear the Commissioner talk about the things that are actually going right, the systems that are working to provide service to the citizens of Georgetown. It is a nice balance which could boost the spirits of city managers and give them zeal to make a difference in the way the city is managed.
Yours faithfully,
Royston King
Public/Relations Officer
Mayor and City Council

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