Smart City Solutions (SCS) is almost ready to roll out its first parking meter in Georgetown; however when the controversial parking platform comes on stream it will not be under the direction of Guyanese Ifa Kamau Cush but Amir Oren, an American.
This is according to information provided by the Public Relations Consultant Kit Nascimento.
Speaking with Stabroek News last evening, Nascimento said that Smart City Solutions “has been taken over by a major Mexican company with American Amir Oren as the major investor representing the company.”
Smart City Solutions Managing Director – Business Development Amir Oren
Asked to clarify whether it was National Parking Systems or Smart City Solutions that had been taken over Nascimento asked, “What’s the difference?” SCS had originally been presented to the public as a partner of the principal concessionaire NPS.
Nascimento further explained that SCS is a special purpose company which entered into a contract with the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to provide a municipal parking system.
“SCS is part of a consortium, which has installed parking meters in Mexico, Panama and Peru. Guyana will be their first Caribbean project. Oren is the head of the consortium and Managing Director of Business Development for SCS,” he said adding that Oren is expected to make a full presentation to the Private Sector Commission (PSC) today at 2 pm.
The position that Cush is no longer affiliated with the project was confirmed by Mayor Patricia Chase-Green who told Stabroek News that she was “aware” that he was no longer associated. It was also supported by Oren’s seven-minute interview with Nascimento, which has been posted on the company’s Facebook page.
During the interview, Nascimento repeatedly refers to the “previous contractor” noting that SCS “took over a contract.” Oren says that having been approached by the then contractor to assist in realizing the contract they undertook to conduct the missing feasibility study if they were formalized into the contract and the contract was made flexible.
“We were brought on after the contract was baked, but the element that was missing was a feasibility study…neither the city nor the existing contractor had the resources to conduct a proper feasibility study: the mapping, traffic counts etc. We know that Georgetown was viable but it wasn’t quantified neither from the concessionaire at the time, NPS, nor from the city. We were happy to be involved but before we committed the capital we wanted to be formalized into the contract and we wanted for the contract to have the flexibility to incorporate the findings of the study,” Oren explained
Meanwhile, though Cush claims that he is still “director of NPS/SCS,” he was unable to provide any updates regarding the parking meter system.
The situation as presented appears to reflect a concern which was raised by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in its review of the parking meter contract.
The eight-page MoF report titled “Comment after a review of the Georgetown Metered Parking System and Concession Agreement,” was produced subject to a Cabinet decision which asked officials of the Ministry of Finance to undertake a review of the agreement between the M&CC and SCS. The Attorney General’s Chambers was also invited to review the contract.
The MoF team raised concerns about the rights granted to SCS through the contract to establish, without consent or constraint, value-added activities not related to the meters or parking business. “This suggests intent of a foreign company [an assumption] to enter into the economic activities of the country via a back door,” the report stated.
In response to this report as well as the one completed by the Attorney General’s Office the city administration negotiated several amendments to the original contract. These amendments were presented to the full council on August 31.
Town Clerk Royston King, speaking at that meeting about the Value Added Service (VAS), pointed out that there was now a joint agreement by the city council and the concessionaire that any revenue coming from VAS will be shared.
“Initially that was not the case because the value added services had nothing to do with the parking concessions. We were particularly concerned about the parking concessions and this value added service had nothing to do with that but because of the intervention and our own sensitivity to the interventions made by ministers [the two reviews] we have looked at it again and have agreed that that particular source of revenue should be shared,” King added.
SCS has not yet made any public statements about VAS.
Nascimento also noted that SCS expected the amended contract to be signed within the next seven days. Both he and Mayor Chase-Green have told Stabroek News that the “amendments were approved by the majority of the councillors.”
However, Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan disagrees. He stated that councillors, as far as he is aware, were never asked to vote on the amendments.
Duncan stated and the Stabroek News report on the meeting confirms, that when Chase-Green initiated a vote from the council it was for who was “in favour for a parking meter project in the city.”
Seventeen of the 20 members present voted yes, while three members, including Duncan abstained. Councillors were then directed to submit any further suggestions towards the amended and current contract, which the councillors can view at the Mayor and Town Clerk’s office while another discussion was set to be held in the coming weeks.
Yesterday Chase-Green maintained that a majority vote had approved the amended contract, which as a “matter of courtesy” would be forwarded to Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan for presentation to Cabinet.
“The full council accepted the amendments. A draft copy will now be presented to the minister who will take it to Cabinet to show that the council has adhered to the recommendations. This is a matter of courtesy. After that the Town Clerk will act on council’s decision,” she said.