Small payment made to garbage collectors; strike still looms

The Mayor and City and Council (M&CC) has paid approximately $20 million, a fraction of what it owes, to the city’s two garbage disposal contractors after they threatened to suspend their collection services.

In early November, correspondence was sent to City Hall from Puran Brothers Disposal Inc and Cevons Waste Management in which the companies stated that they would cease operations on November 14, if they were not paid the hundreds of millions owed to them. The M&CC subsequently met representatives of both companies and asked for a week’s grace period to raise the necessary funds and this was granted.

However, on November 18, the companies were paid some $10 million each following a meeting with city authorities. Stabroek News was told that another meeting is scheduled to be held tomorrow, with City Treasurer Ron McCalmon, Deputy Town Clerk Sharon Harry and others, to further discuss payment plans.

The city has asked central government for a $600 million bailout, part of which it said it intended to use to pay its creditors, but to date this has not been forthcoming.

Chief Executive Officer of Cevons Waste Management Morse Archer, in an invited comment, told Stabroek News that while his company has received a payment the amount was small.  He noted that to date they are owed $203 million for services provided. “What we were paid is very minimal. … Our debts keep growing,” Archer said.

He added that his company is still considering suspending its services if a substantial amount is not paid. “We have a meeting on Friday and after that we would determine the way forward. We are expecting a majority of the payment.” He said his company cannot operate without finances.

General Manager of Puran Brothers Waste Disposal Inc Kaleshwar Puran said he too was expecting an additional payment by the end of this week.  He said the city authorities “begged us to work with them and give them some more time. We all try to work with the city council but if we keep having money outstanding we won’t be able to function effectively.”

In May, both firms had threatened to halt their services to the council over debts owed by the city.

Following the decision taken at the last statutory meeting, correspondence was sent to Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan requesting the $600 million bailout. However, he has since said that he is not prepared to take the city’s request to Cabinet until he is presented with a clear and comprehensive account of its present financial situation and future plans. “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 told Stabroek News.

In 2015, $300 million was granted to realise the Georgetown Rehabilitation programme. While the results of this programme were universally praised, questions have been raised about the management of those finances after the 2015 Auditor General’s Report highlighted several irregularities in the accounting.

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