Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development Norman Whittaker has urged town clerks of the six municipalities to be more responsive to the needs of the people they serve and to ensure that mechanisms are put in place to stem the level of indebtedness by ratepayers.
He was addressing them at the opening ceremony of a training workshop for municipalities on promoting effective financial management, in the Boardroom of the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development.
Addressing the town clerks in particular, the minister said there is much more they do for the communities they serve. He said they also need to get their faces known and engage with the people more.
The minister said the feedback he has received tells him that the people are not satisfied with the services provided by the municipalities. He said too that the workshop will focus on the challenges they face in the day-to-day running of their respective municipalities and they will also be sharing ideas and experiences.
“What you do can be considered as providing services that people need with the resources that come from the people,” he said. “You have a role to ensure that the people are organised and involved,” he urged.
“Municipal government is important… You are the CEOs of your respective municipalities,” he said, referring to Anna Regina, Corriverton, Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam and Rose Hall municipalities. “You cannot shelter under the excuse that you were told by council to do A, B or C,” he said. “The decision taken if wrong in law, you have a duty to bring it to the attention of the council,” he said, noting that councils are sometimes seen as being indifferent to the needs of the people.
He then asked why it was that most of the municipalities collect only 40 to 50 per cent of what is owed to them. He asked what programmes they have in place for debt collection. “Perhaps there needs to be a public awareness programme to inform people of the importance of collection of funds,” he said. He noted that some people do not pay not because they cannot afford to, but because they think paying the councils for non-performance makes no sense.
He said that the members of the councils and town clerks make no visits or make irregular visits to members of the communities they serve. “People must go out and be seen,” he said. He also urged them to be prompt in responding to issues from the public, even if it is just an acknowledgement of a letter sent to the council outlining a problem or issue. He said that if this is not done, then it will lead to unfulfilled expectations on the part of the people.
The minister also urged the town clerks to be watchful for financial irregularities and to spot them early.