Mr John Yow’s letter to SN of June 23 titled ‘Not all Lethem residents affected by the flood have been assisted’ raised an issue which has been asked by many residents of the Rupununi and that relates to the apparent preferential treatment given to the Regional Executive Officer (REO) over the Regional Chairman (RC) which is most obvious in the way the RC has been seen moving around Lethem in the execution of his duties, by either walking or riding a bicycle while the REO and his subordinates are seen driving regional vehicles.
This letter is in no way critical of the work of the REO, since his youthfulness and dynamism have been a revelation to the Rupununi, who were accustomed to some previous REOs being simply political appointees and square pegs in round holes. His present perks befit his status.
However, our RC is an equally respected officer who has been arguably our longest serving chairman, spanning three elections (as the VC and then as RC). Yet he is rather shabbily treated as compared to the REO which is most clearly evidenced by the mode of transportation for the RC and the REO, and herein lies the problem.
The Rupununi has been fortunate to have an RC and REO who are well liked and respected in the region, and who are seen as truly representing the interests of the people. However, the management structure clearly states that the RC is the head of the region and the REO is his subordinate. By virtue of this structure the RC should be receiving better benefits than the REO but this is obviously not the case.
It then needs to asked who devised this management structure that is so obviously imbalanced? And that response seems to point clearly to the Ministry of Local Government. For years now this obvious imbalance has been in existence and little has been done to balance this disparity between the two senior officers. It also raises the question as to how this imbalance came into being in the first place. After all it is very rare for a subordinate officer to have better perks than his superior.
History may provide a clue as to how the imbalance came into being. For many years the Rupununi region voted differently to the national election which resulted in an RC who came from a different political party than the REO. Because the REO was appointed by the government he was able to get his requests much more easily fulfilled than the RC who was given a much harder time to get his basic facilities.
It was only in the last two elections that the winner of the local elections was the same as the national elections. However, the preferential treatment for the REO continued. Could it be that the RC continues to receive fewer perks because he is a local, thus the assumption is that his needs would be less than the REO who is a coastlander? It might be noted that all REOs have been coastlanders.
Whatever the reason behind this obvious imbalance in benefits between the two most senior officers in the regional administration, it is now time for the matter to be addressed. Our RC should be treated according to his status, which is the head of the region. A management system cannot operate with two leaders making separate decisions. Eventually there will be a loss of direction and the structure will collapse and chaos will reign within the organization. Comments made by reputable persons who have had to deal with the regional administration have already reported this problem, where the RC and REO give opposite directives to similar requests. This could be one of the fundamental reasons why the regional administration/RDC is often criticized for being tardy in its responsibilities.
The onus is therefore on the Ministry of Local Government to sort out these management issues and issue clear guidelines so that the RDC/regional administration can function more efficiently. This would also help to clear the other issues pertaining to the benefits of the RC and REO and eventually there would be a better functioning regional administration/ RDC which would be welcomed by all and sundry.
(Name and address provided)