Over two years after laws were passed providing for the establishment of a Local Government Com-mission, such a body is yet to be established despite strident calls by APNU and the AFC when in opposition, for it to be set up.
It is not clear whether Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan has issued a Commencement Order for the Local Government Commission Act to take effect. Despite numerous calls and a visit to his office, Bulkan has not been available to Stabroek News over the past weeks. Last year, Bulkan had been critical of then Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Norman Whittaker for not moving to operationalise the Commission. His party, APNU, had also called numerous times for the Commission to be established.
Further, one of the AFC’s key demands for its support of anti-money laundering legislation last year was the signing of the commencement order for the Act to take effect.
Since winning the May 11 elections, however, the APNU+AFC government has not moved with alacrity to establish the body.
The Commission is provided for in Guyana’s Constitution. Article 78 (a) reads: “Parliament shall establish a Local Government Commission, the composition and rules of which empower the commission to deal with as it deems fit, all matters related to the regulation and staffing of local government organs and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs.”
The Bill to enable the establishing of the Commission was passed in the National Assembly in August 2013 and in November that year received Presidential assent. However, a Commencement Order to be issued by the minister is required for it to be brought into effect.
The Commission’s functions, outlined at clause 13. (1) of the Act, says that the Commission shall have power to deal with all matters relating to the regulation and staffing of local government organs including employment and dismissal of staff and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs, and in particular, shall monitor and review the performance and implementation of policies of all local government organs, including policies of taxation and protection of the environment;
It also has the power to monitor, evaluate and make recommendations on policies, procedures and practices of all local government organs in order to promote effective local governance; investigate any matter under its purview and propose remedial action to the Minister, whenever or wherever necessary; monitor and review all existing and proposed legislation, and or policies and measures relating to local government organs and to make recommendations for any legislation or any amendments to any legislation and or policy to the Minister; and examine and propose ways of enhancing the capacity of local government organs.
The Commission will oversee not only municipalities and NDCs but also Regional Democratic Councils as well as Amerindian Villages. The Act, at Clause 13 (5) states that in the discharge of its functions the Commission shall have regard to the provisions of the Municipal and District Councils Act (Cap. 28:01), the Local Government Act (Cap. 28:02), the Local Democratic Organs Act (Cap. 28:09), the Amerindian Act (Cap. 29:01), and any other provisions bearing on matters of local government.
In April last year, APNU had urged the then PPP/C administration to respect the Constitution by establishing the Commission without further delay.
The Act provides for eight members of the commission. Four of the members would be selected by the president while the remainder would be selected by the president after conferring with the leader of the opposition.