On a previous occasion I felt obligated to pen a letter, to the Press, when one Peeping Tom sought through his privileged anonymity to mis-educate/misinform the reading public on the status of a Town Clerk in Guyana. On that occasion, it was postulated that the relationship between the Town Clerk of the M&CC of Georgetown and that of a Regional Executive Officer (REO) of a regional democratic council are the same. On this occasion, this letter is in response to Minister Whittaker, the Minister responsible for Local Government, who has indulged in the same travesty. In one of his recent excursions, in the Press, he pontificated that the Town Clerk of the M&CC of Georgetown is analogous to a Regional Executive Officer and as such can conduct the business of that office in a manner similar to the conduct of an REO in the execution of his/her office. This is far from the truth. It may have been either a misadventure or an attempt to mislead. In either circumstance, the public should be told the truth. I also hope that this instance is not indicative of the public education that is being conducted, under the Minister’s auspices, on the reformed elements of the local government system.
While the City Council and a Regional Democratic Council (RDC) are both statutory/corporate bodies, the only power that the RDC is actively vested with is the authority to carry out delegated functions on behalf of central ministries. In that regard, a RDC is responsible to some central ministry for every act it carries out. Its resources are provided through a parliamentary appropriation under the Ministry of Local Government and its Regional Executive Officer (administrative head) is appointed by the Ministry as an employee of the Ministry. Such an appointee additionally functions as the Clerk of the RDC and is separately appointed as the Accounting Officer by the Ministry of Finance.
What is the scenario with the City Council? The City Council is a revenue raising body. It raises its own revenue through taxes and may be given a subvention by Central Government. It has its own budget in keeping with its statutory provisions. It also has statutory officers whose functions are prescribed by statutes, which specifically states: “He shall have the duty of ensuring that the business of the council is carried out with order, regularity and expedition in accordance with the by-laws, resolutions and standing orders of the council.” inter alia. The “He” there refers to the Town Clerk. What is clear from this provision is the duty of the Clerk to act in accordance with the “resolutions” of the Council. It should also be noted that there is a provision that specifies: “If the council or any of its committees acts against or rejects his advice, he shall be entitled to require that his advice be recorded in the minutes.” A Town Clerk may also be required to act against his/her own advice once the action does not fly in the face of the law.
Hence the Town Clerk shares no analogy with a REO. It is also interesting to note that in the case of the City Council the Treasurer is the statutory officer responsible for finances and may report directly to the council on such matters. This is quite different from the RDC where the REO is also the chief financial officer.
It is unfortunate that public officials are either ill-informed or find it convenient to be strangers to the truth.