‘It is unfair for the Local Government ministry to set up a criteria and ask for A, B, C and D and applicants came with those requirements and then you have somebody come like a dead horse from way on the outside with nothing at all to be appointed as Town Clerk. Where are we going? The only other place we can go is maybe to the court because what are we doing?’ – Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green
After several months of acting in the capacity of Town Clerk for Georgetown, Carol Sooba was yesterday confirmed in the position, surprising city councillors who say she was least qualified for the position in a recent interview process that involved the Ministry of Local Government.
An earlier search process by the Mayor and City Council had ruled Sooba as ineligible for the post.
The announcement of Sooba’s confirmation was made by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon at a post-cabinet briefing at the Office of the President yesterday.
“For me, today is a day the Earth stood still as regards to education. When we left after our full interview of all participants, we left with a recommendation that the person who was most qualified for that position was Mr. Paul Clark and that was a recommendation that we tabled and I am quite surprised and taken aback that the person who is least qualified and showed no signs of any certificate at that interview will be chosen,” Chase-Green who was one of the members of the panel who interviewed the applicants said at a press briefing immediately after learning that Sooba had been confirmed. Sooba was not available for comment yesterday.
Sooba was among four applicants who had applied for the position. Her highest qualification is a Certificate in Managerial Law from the Institute of Applied and Commercial Education and she has been reading for a Degree in Law since 2006 at the University of Guyana.
In contrast, Chase-Green said that Clark is presently pursuing a Masters in International Business Law and holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in International Trade, a Bachelor’s Degree in Law, a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, General Nursing Council Certificate and Industrial and Social Studies and Insurance Association of Guyana Certificate.
Since her appointment as acting Town Clerk in 2012, Sooba and councillors, including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, have been at odds over the affairs of the municipality. Just recently, Sooba had come under heavy criticism from the council after she had terminated the contracts of two waste management services without putting in place measures to deal with the current garbage situation around the city.
Last year, a no confidence motion was passed against Sooba by a majority of the councillors after she was deemed unfit and unqualified. This action was prompted by Sooba’s handling of the revision of the council’s budget for 2013, which councillors said was the final straw. Earlier this year, the Mayor and councilors had walked out of a statutory meeting, reportedly the first time that this has happened in the mayoralty, after several councillors had expressed concern over her failure to comply with the decisions taken by the council.
According to Chase-Green, a Degree in Law, Degree in Economics or Degree in Urban Planning or Degree in Public Management was among the host of requirements for the post. There were four applicants, two of whom she said were “more or less” in line with the requirements. “While other participants would have presented their certificates, Ms. Carol Sooba… only stated on her qualifications list an incomplete Certificate in Managerial Law from the University in Guyana and a current law programme from the University of Guyana…When asked when she started the programme, she said in 2006,” Chase-Green said.
The Deputy Mayor also questioned the democratic process that was being touted by government. “What is democracy all about? What is the democratic process? We were told of a democratic process by the government. The Ministry of Local Governement identified participants from five different entities to sit as a panel to interview Ms. Sooba. When we as a council were doing the interviews for Town Clerk, they felt that we were biased,” she noted.
“They went ahead and imposed a Town Clerk upon us which did not turn out to be in the interest of the council. Again, at their level, they set up a panel, a process was taken care of in the right way, in the transparent way and yet it makes no sense. It is an insult to the panel and every single Guyanese who is attending a school, who is going to school for higher education because what do you need a certificate or a degree for if you don’t have to have one for the job as a Town Clerk,” she stated.
Chase-Green informed that criteria were established by the Ministry of Local Government but this were clearly not followed. “The Ministry of Local Government set out the criteria they wanted…I hope the President can understand this and the President can intervene because it is unfair for the Local Government ministry to set up a criteria and ask for A, B, C and D and applicants came with those requirements and then you have somebody come like a dead horse from way on the outside with nothing at all to be appointed as Town Clerk. Where are we going? The only other place we can go is maybe to the court because what are we doing?” she asked.
According to Chase-Green, if Sooba was fully qualified according to the qualifications asked for by the Ministry of Local Government and passed the interview and was recommended, there would have been no objections. “But I strongly object as a member of the panel that sat and interviewed persons and found her not qualified and not fitting for the position as Town Clerk to be confirmed in the position. It’s an insult to my integrity as a member of the panel,” she added.
Questioned about what the relationship will be like between the council and Sooba as she is confirmed as the Town Clerk, Chase-Green said that it will only get worse. “It’s going to get worse because now she has the full authority. When she was acting, she usurped her authority. Now that she has been confirmed she has the backings of the government. The elected body will be useless. She is trying to make the elected body, a body that cannot function,” she added.
Chase-Green said that it was her personal belief that the government is trying to bring the council down to its lowest ebb, impose an Interim Management Committee (IMC) on the citizens, and then pour millions of dollars into the council and proceed to local government elections. “As it is right now, they are afraid to go to local government elections. So we see the spinoff that is going to come but for those persons who sat at the interview today is a sad day because their qualifications did not matter. Ms. Sooba brought nothing, not a single certificate to show to the panel and it is unfair to those persons who would have been interviewed for the position,” she said.
In an invited comment, councillor and former Mayor of Georgetown Ranwell Jordan said that the appointment of Sooba as the Town Clerk was a “political” one. “However you put it, it is a political appointment, and for me the imposition of a one person IMC on the Mayor and City Council. It is left for the councillors and the citizens of Georgetown, particularly the vendors whom that individual has been treating as if they have no place in the city or they do not deserve the ability to earn for their households,” he said.
Jordan added that it was a sorry state of affairs which this city will need to deal with. “This is a matter that should be brought to the international community because this situation will cause this country to take a position that lots may be regretful about. This appeared to be the work of one or two persons… whoever it was that decided that Carol Sooba should be appointed has done this city and country harm,” he said. (Tifaine Rutherford)