Local gov’t bills still in limbo

-two months after passage

More than two months after being passed in the National Assembly, four local government bills are yet to be sent to President Donald Ramotar for him to determine if he will give or withhold his assent.

National Assembly Clerk Sherlock Isaacs yesterday confirmed that the bills were still with the Chambers of the Attorney General (AG), and since they are out of his hands, he is unable to say when they will be released back to him.

At the time he sent them to the AG’s Chambers after their August 7th passage in the House, Isaacs was optimistic that they would be returned speedily.

Speaking to Stabroek News a few weeks ago, Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall said that the bills–the Local Govern-ment Commission Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Fiscal Transfers Bill and the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill—were still at his chambers and that he was awaiting advice from the Office of the President (OP) on whether they should be given certificates of assent.

When contacted yesterday, Nandlall indicated that this position had not changed.

Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud has announced that preparations are being undertaken for the holding of hosting of local government elections.

Upon Persaud’s instruction, the Guyana Elections Commission has started preparations for the holding of local government elections. He said that at the rate things are going, the elections can be held in either the second or third quarter of 2014.

The polls were held last in 1994 and the government has faced criticism for the failure to run off polls since this time. The protracted work on local government reforms—captured in the bills—was largely responsible for the delay, as both government and opposition had agreed on implementing reforms before elections would be held.

Even though the bills have not been enacted, Persaud claimed recently that local government reform has taken place. The fact that the president has not assented to the bills, he said, should not be taken to mean that their provisions are not in effect, despite the fact that presidential assent is needed for enactment of bills passed in the House.

Persaud has also argued that the local government bills are not a prerequisite to the holding of local government elections. The minister has said that the legislation needed for the holding of local government elections, the Local Government Elections Bill, has been passed, assented to, and implemented.

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