We applaud any effort by the City Hall to recover monies due to the Georgetown Municipality. In fact, we have pleaded with the present Town Clerk acting, even when she functioned as the Legal Clerk, to deal with these matters expeditiously. But what we now see happening is clearly a process to target persons, who have over time, been exposing the corruption and undemocratic governance of the PPP/C administration.
It is also clear Ms Sooba is being used as one instrument to embarrass persons not supportive of government. We learnt from the media that, at the instance of the Town Clerk (ag), Kaieteur News, Christopher Ram and the wife of the Mayor of Georgetown have been sued for allegedly owing sums of money to the council.
The public needs to know the following:
1. In the case of Kaieteur News and Christopher Ram, we have pleaded with the Town Clerk (ag) to effect an exchange of cheques, since in both instances, the council is indebted to the party she now deems it fit to sue. Efforts were made as recently as some two weeks ago to settle this matter, but again, the Town Clerk (ag) refused to take appropriate action.
In each case, the agents reported the very hostile reaction when they sought to bring closure to what ought to be a simple matter of two parties owing one another and then an exchange of cheques.
As is the case of other business entities, persons calling on the Town Clerk (ag) have had stressful experiences having to wait on the Town Clerk (ag) for hours, in
circumstances where she does not allow other officers to deal with routine administrative matters. For example: even simple matters of issuing permits for the supply of fuel has to wait the pleasure of the Town Clerk (ag) herself, since the Deputy Town Clerk, the City Treasurer (ag) and other administrative officers have been prevented from dealing with these simple routine matters.
2. In the case of Dr Jennifer Basdeo an appeal was made from the outset against the excessive valuation of her property. After years, a re-evaluation was finally done but the present administration insisted that the interest accumulated over the years must be paid. This interest is almost six times the original taxes due and payable.
It is important to note that the law provides for the establishment of a Rating Appeals Panel, the body to which an aggrieved taxpayer, as is the case with Dr Basdeo, should appeal.
For reasons best known to the government, there is no Rating Appeal Panel functioning, hence, the delay for years to get another valuation for the said property.
Those who now pursue this propaganda should explain to citizens why there is no Rating Appeals Panel.
The other institution to which Dr Basdeo and others may have made an appeal, is the Ombudsman. The constitution is crystal clear: there shall be an Ombudsman.
The PPP/C administration is in breach of a vital aspect of our democratic system. There is no Ombudsman appointed by those who celebrate a ‘return to democracy.’
While this war is being waged by Ms Sooba against certain individuals, apart from the above delinquencies, the Town Clerk (ag) as Chief Executive Officer is the servant of the council. The council appointed some time ago, a panel of attorneys from which the Town Clerk is duty bound to select one to do our legal work.
None of the attorneys named from our information, as identified by the Town Clerk (ag) to sue certain persons are on the list of approved lawyers identified by the council; further, at no time did the Town Clerk (ag) approach the council for its fiat to deal with these matters.
Be it known that in the case of Dr Basdeo, the matter was fully ventilated at several meetings and at a statutory meeting, taking all the relevant factors into consideration, it was agreed that there was no justification for imposing $10 million in interest on taxes due for the property at XX Mandela Avenue and several efforts in writing and orally, have failed to get the City Treasurer (ag) and the Town Clerk (ag) to respect the decision of Full Council made on May 28, 2013. By letter dated September 17, 2013, the City Treasurer (ag) was reminded that Dr. Basdeo was ready to pay immediately the sum less the accrued interest, and was therefore requested to confirm this arrangement in writing. This is yet to be done. To date, there has been no response from either the Town Clerk (ag) or the City Treasurer (ag), even though by memo dated September 13, 2013, the Town Clerk (ag) was reminded of a legal opinion from council’s lawyers, that it was within the competence of the council to grant waivers.
It should be noted that the Minister has been exercising this right for some time now, including waiving taxes and interest on properties owned and disposed of by NICIL.
This is a clear case of political pressure and propaganda.
Hamilton Green, JP
Mayor of Georgetown