PPP accuses city council of failure to act ahead of flash flood

-despite available gov’t help

The ruling party yesterday took aim at the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) over its failure to deal with the city’s garbage problem and dysfunctional and drainage and irrigation system ahead of last week’s flash flooding, despite available  help from Public Works and Agriculture ministries.

Speaking at the People’s Progressive’s Party’s weekly press conference at Freedom House yesterday, Junior Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker said that for months the ministry has been trying to get the M&CC to clean up clogged drains and check sluices and pumps to ensure they were in working order. He mentioned that a meeting was held on November 13 between the ministry and city council to determine what needed to be done to prepare the city for the rainy season. He stated that this was a crucial meeting, where the ministry made staff available to assist the M&CC with hands on deck to monitor and to physically check the city streets. He also noted that the various illegal dumping sites throughout Georgetown have long been identified and that the M&CC was once again made aware of the situation.

Norman Whittaker
Norman Whittaker

However, Whittaker said that in spite of the ministry’s best efforts, the city was not prepared for the heavy rainfall last week that saw most of the major roadways underwater and with little to no drainage in many areas, such as Albouystown and Charlestown. He stated that the M&CC has to take responsibility for the terrible garbage and dysfunctional drainage and irrigation throughout the city, especially since manpower has been made available through the Public Works Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) to assist with the technical aspects.

However, Whittaker’s official list of clean up works was timetabled from November 25 to December 5. He noted during the press conference that the list was inclusive of things that had to be done prior to the rains, but there was no explaining if this was a revised list of duties or if in fact it was just a clean-up campaign.

The list only had the M&CC being solely responsible for the cleaning of Sideline Dam, Middle Road La Penitence as well as cleaning and weeding of South and North Ruimveldt and TucVille. The other areas—Agricola to Meadowbrook, Riverview to Laing Avenue inclusive of Alexander Village, Lodge, Meadowbrook, Robbstown, Lacytown, Bourda, Stabroek and Wortmanville—all needed to be done in conjunction with the Public Works Ministry and the Local Government Ministry. Community groups were also listed as being responsible for removal of solid waste and removing overgrown vegetation.

Whittaker’s list, which included Kingston, Alberttown, Thomas Lands, Cummingburg, Kitty, Campbellville and Prashad Nagar, removed responsibility for these areas from the M&CC and instead placed the onus on the Local Government Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry and Housing Ministry. It should be noted that many of these areas were heavily affected by last week’s heavy rains, with inestimable losses in property damage.

Meanwhile, Whittaker also stated that the central government has spent over $337 million in assistance to the M&CC from 2007 to 2013 to facilitate clean up and infrastructural works for drainage. He stated that this amount was devoid of the additional monies spent on compactor trucks and clean-up campaigns, among other exercises.

Additionally, the municipality of Georgetown received $20 million annually through a subvention grant. He noted that the M&CC has yet to submit its budget for 2014, while adding that it has proven its inability to manage funds.

Whittaker said that the amount invested into the M&CC to go towards the municipality is unaccounted for in many instances. While this was the current situation, Whittaker acknowledged that there was no plan of any type for an Interim Management Committee to run the municipality.

Whittaker skirted around questions asking then what the government’s responsibility was to further advance the cleaning of the city.

The PPP has repeatedly stated that the M&CC is unable to govern and during the press conference reiterated that the lack of control and precautions during the heavy rainfall were proof of this inability.