The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday said there is a “stalemate” between the Regional Executive Officers (REOs) and the regional administrations in the seven regions won by the party.
This stalemate, according to Shadow Minister for Communities Collin Croal, stems from the government-appointed REOs failing to communicate with the duly-elected Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) as well as failing to respect and implement decisions made by them.
Croal believes that at the root of these issues is the fact that the REOs are political appointees, who do not understand their roles as public servants.
“Information is not being provided to the RDCs as to the awards being done at the regional tender board. We have, in some cases, information not being provided when requested …In some cases, REOs are not attending RDCs and decisions made at RDC level are not being implemented or, if they are, in a limited way,” Croal said.
He gave the example of Region One, which he recently visited, where he noted that the council’s Infrastructure Committee has not been provided with copies of the contracts awarded by the tender board.
Noting that that committee has responsibility for monitoring the implementation of these projects, he stressed that this cannot be done without a copy of the contracts.
He also shared reports which allege that REOs were prioritising projects contrary to the directive of the council and that programme heads are not providing progress reports.
Croal said these shortcomings put the councils at a disadvantage when it comes to fulfilling their duties.
PPP MP Gail Teixeira, in expressing her concerns, described the operation in the Region Nine as dreadful.
According to Teixeira, all the ills Croal highlighted and worse were happening in the region. “The REO decides whether the chairman can speak or not at public functions,” she said, while adding that since their appointment in June the council has been asking for the financial statement of the region, which the REO has refused to provide.
“Finally, after the November 30th meeting they were provided with a document which shows that from a budget of $1.4B the region has $464M left unused on the current. No status report on the capital budget has been provided, which is about $180M. For the regional tender board, there are no minutes and the REO has refused to provide information on what happened before the Vice-Chair became a member of regional tender board sometime in October. So, the RDC has no idea about the status of implementation of any projects,” Teixeira said.
While the REO of Region One Leslie Wilburg refused to comment on the claims made, Carl Parker, the REO of Region Nine, expressed shock at the accusations.
According to Parker, the claims are “unfounded,” since he and the chairman meet every day and he has been cooperating with every request as he is able. He noted that he presently does not have a functioning deputy or assistants and is, therefore, forced to oversee the administration of the region virtually alone.
“I have been at every meeting, every month, and as for the contracts and report, I only noticed his request yesterday (Wednesday). His letter was in the file on my desk. That file has been there since Monday and I just haven’t had the time to check it. I wish I could read all my mail every day but I have to deal with the public, some of whom are travelling great distances. I can’t turn them away,” Parker said.
Responding to claims that his region has a large surplus remaining from this year’s budget, Parker said, “I wish we had money. All we money finish. Only yesterday I issued a circular to stop all spending and our engineer is right now meeting with the Ministry of Education engineer to work out a proposal for emergency funds from that Ministry so that we can handle an emergency situation at the Annai dorms.”
At yesterday’s press conference Teixeira claimed that there was $175 million left over in the education budget and $105M in health budget, which should’ve been used for the supply of drugs and other medical supplies.
She further claimed that there was a shortage of drugs at the medical facilities in the region, including the Lethem Hospital.
Parker stressed that his region has completed all but two capital projects and that there is, as far he knows, no shortage of medical supplies. “I meet with the Regional Health Officer and the Environ-mental Health Officer every day. I think they would’ve told me if there was a shortage,” Parker said.