I was pointed to an article in your Wednesday, September 28 edition, captioned ‘Local Government Minister raises budget and other issues in Region 10.‘
Let me express my adulation publicly for the way Minister Norman Whittaker handled himself and dealt with the meeting. As I had expressed to him, he is only 5 weeks in the job and has visited many local organs, a far cry from what obtained over the past 4 years and more. Maybe things would have been different if this approach had been taken in the past.
For some of the issues mentioned in the report, let me elucidate. In 2010 the council obtained 60% of the property tax for that period and not 30% as stated. I pointed out that property tax cannot suffice for taking care of current municipal expenses.
In fact employment expenses were 125% of the taxes for the year (2010). This meant that ways had to be found to fund expenses. Also, the municipality has to manage frugally. Moreover the current rate of taxation is pegged at the 1976 level and this has to take care of expenses in 2011. It is clear that expenses had outstripped the property tax income and this must be addressed. I pointed to the following:
1. We have estimated that more than 3,500 properties are not on the tax roll, of which 2000 would be in Central Amelia’s Ward. (There are currently 6,532 properties on the roll.) Central Amelia’s Ward is still on the books of the CH&PA and needs to be handed over with the proviso that the LIS 2 will continue with its expansion. Remember this scheme has been in existence for more than a decade.
2. The council’s administration had conducted an exercise which was not inadequate and needs to be redone to capture all properties in Linden.
3. Mr Horace James had computerized the income bases of the council and these need to be internalized and activated with training, which Mr James committed to more than 5 months ago. The administration needs to show an attitude that is reflective of being serious and innovative.
4. Except for the market, all the revenue bases are underperforming and financial statements are very late. At the time of writing the last report addressed was April 2011, and we were at the end of September 2011.This is untenable.
5. Minister also said that there was no budget for 2011, and that was technically correct since the one presented was rejected by the former minister. Again the administration has continued to lapse as this was to be returned in six months after January 2011, with a series of measures put in place to garner more revenue.
The second major issue in the report was the question of internal squabbles. I said clearly that the IMC had work to do for its citizens and if the administration is not delivering there will be heat generated.
The truth is that the administration lacks the capacity in addition to the fact that the wages are poor. Moreover, before this current Minister’s time the ministry promulgated a lot of the intransigencies by not responding to the council’s recommendations for disciplinary action when people did not deliver. There are more than five serious cases pending at the ministry for employees bringing the council into disrepute. In fact an independent group chaired by the RDC’s Local Government Chairman investigated a matter and recommended disciplinary action against the Town Clerk. This has been languishing since April 2011.
I hope it is not hard to see that I am being pilloried for the state of the environment, among other travesties, yet we cannot discipline officers when they transgress. I had shown the Minister’s predecessor that Article 28 of our CLA gives us that right as well as Cap.28:01 Section 76; I was told that there was no need for the meeting since I cannot ask for his concurrence. At the time a strike was on.
Since then there has been an enormous increase in transgressions as the operatives believe they have immunity from discipline. That might well be.
It is my hope that there is a new dispensation, seriously attempting to have devolution of authority and power to local organs to function in the interest of their representatives.