No amendment to the law required to install an IMC in Georgetown

Dear Editor,

A letter by Mr Leon Rockliffe that appeared in the issue of Stabroek News September 23, 2009  captioned ‘Georgetown needs an IMC of technocrats’ was informative and to the point. However, he appears to have missed a major point in his presentation on his advocacy of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) for the Georgetown City Council. He gave details on how it should be comprised.

What Mr Rockliffe proposed is basically what the PPP-Civic Government envisaged some two years ago, when a high court writ was served on the undersigned. That writ sought to injunct me from even thinking of any such IMC for Georgetown. The case was eventually thrown out by the judge and rightfully so. It had absolutely no merit.

As Minister responsible I had gazetted no Order, yet Mr CML John, a city councillor with some degree of legal training, sought to prematurely halt the establishment of an IMC for Georgetown. Representing me in the high court was the then Attorney General Mr Doodnauth Singh, SC. This is what Mr Rockliffe wrote:

“There is ongoing debate over local government reform and the timely holding of local government elections. The Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown are the body corporate established under the provisions of the Municipal & District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01 of the Laws of Guyana.

The establishment of an IMC would necessitate relevant amendment to the act. It is my personal wish that Messrs Jagdeo and Corbin would see fit, even for their diverse purposes, to embark on the reform process by isolating this one item, ie the IMC substitution for a city council to be introduced into Parliament come October. This is emergency time.”

On the contrary, no amendment to the act is needed.

Section 305 of the Municipal & District Councils Act, provides the government with the authority to establish an IMC for any municipality in Guyana. There was no amendment to the act when Linden Town Council and Rose Hall Town Council were dissolved and replaced by IMCs. That section states at subsection (1):

“If the Minister is satisfied upon inquiry held by him that—

(a) a council has exceeded or abused its powers or has made default in the performance of any duty imposed upon it;

(b) the council has failed to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of efficiency and progress in the discharge of its functions;

(c) the expenditure of the council has generally or on any particular head, been excessive or unreasonable having regard to its financial resources and other relevant circumstances of the council area; or

(d) the council has failed to observe any financial instruction, he may by order declare the council to be in default and either—

(i) direct the council to perform any of its functions in a manner and within a time specified in the order; or

(ii) transfer to such person or persons as he may deem fit, such of the functions of the council as may be specified in the order, and such person or persons shall exercise and perform all powers and duties of the council in relation to the functions transferred, or

(iii) dissolve the council, or suspend the council for such time as he may think fit, from the performance of such of its functions as may be specified.”

Subsection (3) states:

“Where the Minister dissolves a council or suspends the council from the performance of any of its functions under this section, he may by order, transfer to such person or persons as he may deem fit, such of the functions of the council as may be specified in the order, and such person or persons shall exercise and perform, all powers and duties of the council in relation to the functions transferred.” (This refers to the IMC).

Following the Local Authorities (Postpone-ment of Elections) Act 1997, the PNC in and out of the National Assembly, demanded that local authorities should have the right to hold internal elections for Mayor and Deputy Mayor or Chairman and Deputy Chairman, pending local government elections. That 1997 act suspended internal elections.

When in December 2008, the act was amended to permit internal elections, many local government organs (including the city council) opted in writing to have those elections held. However, the decision of the city council was deferred indefinitely.

Here again was another conundrum. As the Minister responsible, I was again taken to court on a writ by Mr CML John challenging the legality of the Local Authorities (Postponement of Elections) Act. That writ too was thrown out by the judge. The PNCR ensconced at City Hall, along with its support base in Georgetown, do not want an IMC nor do they want to change the Mayor or Deputy Mayor. Everything there must be fine.

Yours faithfully,
Clinton Collymore
Ministerial Advisor
Ministry of Local Government

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