What training will the new town clerks, councillors receive in decision-making, structured analysis?

Dear Editor,

One notes the clamour surrounding the establishment of new towns, and could hardly help but wonder what training new councillors would have received in decision-making say, (after structured analysis of the evidence); and how briefed would have been the town clerk designate in the legal provisions which must inform the execution of his/her mandate.

When all the sound has subsided one suspects there remain officials mostly untutored in their roles and responsibilities. How many would have digested the content of the Municipal & District Councils Act, if at all they are aware of its existence?

What consideration would have been given to the construct of a viable system of rates and taxes, the criteria on which it should be based, and the methodology to be applied in collection?

It is an embarrassing fact that the oldest municipality in the history of the country has been mostly ineffective over time in collecting its traditionally small dues.

When the donor-funded Urban Development Programme was launched several years ago, the well-executed exercise was aimed at revaluing properties in the six existing municipalities. It was a highly organised technological programme which involved the computerised recording of every building, the results of which were sadly never implemented. The records should be found in the archives of the Ministry of Finance where the programme was embedded.

As a consequence it must be obvious to all, including the Ministry of Communities, that the thriving new building highscape in Georgetown and environs is benefiting from the most archaic property taxation structure –  which presumably will also be the experience of the new towns.

Incidentally it must be noted that ‘towns’ are disproportionately larger than ‘communities’.

But to focus briefly on the well-known ineffectiveness of the City Council of Georgetown during the last over-extended incumbency the town (not city) clerkship was proven to be so inept in the management of finance that the Auditor General had to be invited to review the systemic aberrations.

That office’s report resulted in an investigation being mounted by a Commission of Inquiry led by Mr Keith Burrowes. The inquiry produced a most comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of every department of the Mayor and City Council, and the malperformance of identified functionaries, some of whom were disciplined. Otherwise the report was ignored, even by the governance structure which sponsored the inquiry. So that at this point in time nothing has changed. The bellicosity currently emitting from the town clerk’s office can only be regarded by the more perspicacious as more sound than substance.

But more critically, apart from the new mayor who survived that prolonged period of under-performance (not all of the council’s making) there still remains a fundamental disability in the form of untrained decision-makers. Compounding such a substantive faultline, was the gross display of a totally inept and misguided town clerkship up to mid-2015.

One must therefore contemplate what models new towns are going to emulate in the selection of town clerks of needed incompetence.

It is against this difficult background that one becomes anxious about the published official suggestion that a town clerk would be appointed after consultation with (newcomer) councillors, for Bartica.

With the greatest respect, the most sympathetic observer would quickly recognise that such an uninformed approach would be a recipe for disaster, in that one can ill afford to start off on a standard of unproven capacity.

In any case the approach, if correctly reported, flies in the face of historical practice. Reference to the relevant Act which provides information regarding the duties and responsibilities of the town clerk would show what a critical leadership role it was conceived to be. Experience over the last two decades should indicate that the most in-depth consideration needs to be given to the specifications which any incumbent of the position must satisfy.

Therefore taking account of the peculiar challenges management of the Town of Bartica is bound to face, a very precise job description should be devised for advertisement inviting suitably qualified candidates for the position. Organisation principles, and indeed common sense, would dictate such a procedure as the appropriate direction in which to go.

There just could not be an alternative option, no matter how placatory it may appear to some interested parties.

Who was it that said that you cannot solve the problem if you are in the same mindset as when you created it?

Yours faithfully,

E B  John

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