Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan yesterday said that he is not prepared to present to Cabinet, a request from the city of Georgetown for a $600 million bailout until he is presented with a clear and comprehensive account of the city’s present financial situation and future plans.
At the November 15 statutory council meeting, the Mayor and City Council voted to approach central government through the Ministry of Communities “for a bailout of a minimum of $600 million to be used for the payment of contractors, preparations of the city for the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Harry as well as the salaries of council workers.” The motion which was tabled by APNU+AFC councillor Junior Garret was passed via a majority vote.
Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, Bulkan said that he had received a letter, signed by Town Clerk Royston King last Thursday, seeking financial support to the tune of $600 million to pay creditors, offset other liabilities and fund works.
He however stressed that he is not prepared to make any representation on behalf of the M&CC until he is provided with more information.
“I need further information. I received the letter at 3:37 last Thursday and learnt that both the Mayor and Town Clerk had left the jurisdiction that afternoon. Before I can make any representation on their behalf I need to engage the Mayor for more information. The letter did not provide enough information to justify an intervention,” Bulkan explained.
Asked to clarify the information he would need from City Hall, Bulkan noted that he would need to see a plan from the city as to exactly how they intend to spend the sum.
He also said that he would need a fuller understanding of the income and expenditure of the city at least over the last year; and fuller understanding of their liabilities and a clear explanation of the projected income and revenue sources at least for the rest of year.
He stressed that even if this information is provided there is no guarantee that the bailout would be approved as he believes that central government would be “unfavourably disposed to the request.”
“I believe it may just be central government’s position that the city should look to commercial sources of financing,” Bulkan explained. He however said that that there can be no final position on the request until the Ministry has had a chance to fully engage the Mayor and Town Clerk on the details of their request.
If granted this $600 million, it would be the second time the APNU+AFC government has approved a large sum for the management of the capital city. In 2015, $300 million was granted to realise the Georgetown Rehabilitation programme. While the results of this programme were universally praised there have recently been questions raised about the management of those finances after the 2015 Auditor General’s Report highlighted several irregularities in the accounting.