Dear Editor,

It is indeed heartening to hear the evaluation by the Head of State, which equates the current condition of the Mayor and City Council to a ‘disaster,’ albeit, if not appearing to do so, distancing the administration from any negative contribution to the situation. In local parlance it all sounds as if ‘wan han doing the clappin.’

Hardly so! A conscientious review of developments should remind all the stakeholders that the current ‘disaster’ is the result of total neglect of a most commendable initiative by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Administration at the time – with the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry, charged to execute the following Terms of Reference:

“4.1 To peruse the Report of the Auditor General on the City Municipality for 2007

“4.2 To obtain the assistance of knowledgeable persons in conducting the Inquiry

“4.3 To look into irregularities identified in the Report as they relate to the following areas of municipal administration in Georgetown.

A. The Office of the Town Clerk

B. The Office of the City Treasurer

C. Loans to members of staff and others

D. Advances on salaries to members of staff

E. Irregularities in rates collection

F. Municipal bank accounts in commercial banks

G. Restructuring municipal departments and operations.

“4.4 To pronounce on the culpability (if any) of the Town Clerk and the City Treasurer.

“4.5 Make recommendations to the Minister in all matters enquired into.

“4.6 Identify Departments and Sections where Council has been Experiencing Modest Success.

“4.7 Summarise issues raised during the Commission of Inquiry’s Hearings

“4.8 Address other critical IT-Related Issues.”

The Inquiry began in September, 2008, and closed in May, 2009 – lasting approximately over nine months.

It may be helpful for the readership to appreciate the comprehensiveness of the Report of the Commission headed by Mr Keith Burrowes by reviewing a small sample of the recommendations. The other Commissioners were Messrs: Brijlall Rampersaud, George Adams, Ranwell Jordan, Mahendra Ishri, Ms Patricia Chase-Green with Puran Persaud as Secretary.

Of the 100 plus recommendations, the following should be of relevance at this time of disaster:

“4.1.1

1) Development of a General Operations Manual

2) Institution of Chart of Accounts and General Ledger system, which should lead to completion of accurate financial statements and monthly management accounts.

3) Development of a comprehensive software package, to be exclusively managed and maintained by the IT Department.

4) Establishment of an independent internal audit and systems review department.

5) Comprehensive review and overhaul of management and implementation methodologies and systems to facilitate documentary efficiency and transparency, with respect to financial management.

6) Establishment of an inspectorate unit staffed by persons with requisite technical competence.”

“4.3.1.2:

1) Reconfigure job descriptions of Town Clerk and Deputy Town Clerk, with knowledge of the Statutes being a prerequisite for employment. Also nullify and/or reduce powers of both by making them answerable to a higher authority.”

“4.3.1.5:

1) Deputy Town Clerk should be tasked with more responsibility, including the recording and circulation of accurate minutes of the meetings of the Council.

2) The positions of Town Clerk and Deputy Town Clerk should be filled by recruits with legal expertise.”

“4.3.8.1:

1) Legal Officer (now the Town Clerk (ag)) outsources legal work; that officer is basically redundant, because she is a facilitator, job opportunities should be revised and full-time legal staff employed.”

“4.3.8.4:

1) Establishment of an internal audit unit independent of the City Treasurer’s Department.”

“4.3.8.7:

1) Prioritize service delivery.

2) Define ‘Core’ areas of work and segregate from ‘Non-Core’ areas of work to help with budget planning.”

“4.5.1.1:

1) Strategic Municipal Development Plan to be implemented.”

“4.5.1.3:

1) Unionised administrations are counter-productive to effective management of subordinates, as solidarity of labour could override considerations of effective sanctions; so this should be revised.

2) Appoint Local Government Service Commission.”

“4.6.7:

1) Review of skills and competence of staff and implement dynamic human resource development programme.”

“General:

7)   Develop user-friendly manual for Councillors and rates/taxpayers.

8)   Develop General Operations Manual with input from key stakeholders.

9)   Define and segregate areas of operations to achieve greater accountability.

13) Establish a Municipal Court.

24) Town Clerk and Public Relations Officer, or any other staff member who received advances, should reimburse all monies or be prosecuted.

25) Install surveillance system to intercept litterbugs, then apply full force of the law as a deterrent.”

With the best will in the world the compendium of essentially practical recommendations has been overlooked, ignored and unimplemented – hardly an unfamiliar scenario.

Rather than this abysmic charade that it is now being perpetuated, surely the imperative consideration must be for the citizens of Georgetown, and indeed stakeholders throughout the country, as well as the current collection of (stage) actors, to revisit the Findings and Recommendations of the Report of the Burrowes Commission of Inquiry into the Operations of the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown, with a view to activating them and restoring the nation’s primary local governance organisation to a state of sanity and, of course, productivity. The current antagonistic posturings are embarrassingly unbecoming, and reflect a bestiality of nature which the respective protagonists and their sponsors must surely regret; and for which resident visitors as well as citizens here and in the diaspora, feel obliged to apologise on behalf of this uncivil city. But alas, those who officially are asked to adjudicate the confusion should rise out of the box of routine judicial equivocations from which the current ‘devastation’ flows, and find creative means of bringing the parties back into a commonsensical working partnership.

It could not be that much of a challenge to persuade players and directors that the comedy being witnessed is less a laughing matter than a painful tragedy of (deliberate) errors.

Yours faithfully,
E B John