I note with amazement a letter signed by the Mr Norman Whittaker, Minister within the Ministry of Local Government, in the Stabroek News of Saturday, September 28, titled, ‘City council’s unwillingness to account for money it receives is a matter of concern to Local Government Ministry.’
In this opening sentence, the Minister assails the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and certain councillors as noted above.
The body of his letter and the copy of a letter he purportedly sent to the Auditor General in no way can hold the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and councillors culpable of any unwillingness to account for monies – absolutely rubbish – a total untruth.
Whatever fault or difficulty existed in relation to the Japanese grant is entirely the doing of the senior officer whom the Minister continues to impose upon us. It is the failure of the present Town Clerk (ag) to act professionally that has created the embarrassment with the Japanese.
The existing local government system is a relic of the past, but it functioned at a time when competent town clerks worked in harmony with a mayor and councillors – not so in Georgetown, compliments of Minister Whittaker and his ilk. We have the constant micromanagement by ministers. This may explain the apparent delay by the PPP administration to proceed with the four Local Government Bills intended, at least, in part, to remove the steel heel off the backs of municipalities, and in one case, the burden of an administrator whom the council did not identify and who lacks both the qualification and grace for such an important and high office.
The truth is, the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and councillors ‒whom the Minister has emphasized ‒ have absolutely nothing to do with the collection and use of Mayor and City Council monies. So, what mental process allowed the Minister to even suggest “an unwillingness – neglect to account for monies,” etc? Is the Minister serious, or are we seeing the figment of someone’s imagination?
The Minister writing the Auditor General is mere propaganda; since May 2013, the Mayor and Councillors agreed to this very course of action – did the Town Clerk write the Auditor General as decided by Council? (Attached to this is a copy extracted from the Minutes of the Finance Committee Meeting held on May 2, 2013 and agreed to by the full council.) Earlier, the Mayor expressed some concern about the way this project was being handled, but, as usual, he and the councillors cannot discipline the officer corps. In fact, the Minister routinely summons to his office senior officers ‒ the Town Clerk, the Treasurer, the Engineer and other senior staff ‒ to discuss and decide on matters related to City Hall, without even the courtesy of informing the Mayor.
The trouble they have is, I will not surrender.
We have on many occasions inveighed against this inappropriate micromanagement of the city by Ministers. At a meeting held on February 15, 2013, Minister Ganga Persaud promised to stop this unethical pattern of Mayor-Minister relationship. My letter dated February 17, 2013 refers to the understanding reached at that meeting, but sadly, nothing has changed.
Read part 1 of ‘Siege of the City’ to be published this week.
Citizens need join the effort to have the President assent to the four Local Government Bills, so we can begin by having a local government commission put in place, to allow the appointment of qualified, competent and rational persons to high office, and so ease the petty spite and the decisions of an administration that has so far frustrated the will of 73% of those who voted at the last local government elections for Georgetown. It is high time the Minister and his colleagues stop the puerile punishment of the city. We present facts not fiction.
The three officers who are the signatories to this account have all since been dismissed by the said ministry before doing the sensible and standard thing, that is, to wrap up all administrative matters before being sent off. Minister Whittaker failed to do what ought to have been done, that is to reprimand the Town Clerk (ag) for mishandling this matter.
So, what is the Minister writing about? Why blame the Mayor and Deputy Mayor? What is the real story? He is in de facto control to the extent that he refuses to act on the many misdemeanours of this Town Clerk (ag) and the ‘no confidence’ expressed on two occasions.
We can share at any time a litany of the woes we face at the hands of Ms Sooba. This is clearly a clever attempt to fool some people. The minister should do the proper thing and apologize to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and councillors.
The issue of the Japanese Grant is a classic case of ineptitude by officers under the control of the Minister. How could the Minister have the gall to suggest otherwise? The bottom line and cause of the problem is that the Town Clerk (ag) has refused or failed to carry out the request of council; this officer ought to have taken a professional approach.
Her failure should, in normal circumstances, have earned a serious reprimand, instead of the Minister’s myopic letter.