No renegotiating illegal parking meter contract

-pressure group, businesses tell city committee

City councillors tasked with renegotiating the controversial Georgetown metered parking deal were yesterday told they would have to restart the process from scratch because the current contract is illegal.

At the start of the renegotiating committee’s consultations at City Hall, representatives of the pressure group the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) and the business community were adamant that in the absence of public tendering, the contract for the project cannot stand.

Members of the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) who met with the negotiating team yesterday. From left are George Fraser, Raj Boodoo, Renata Chuck-A-Sang, Marcel Gaskin, Don Singh, Pauline Chase, Raquel Thomas Caesar, Learie Barclay, Komal Ramnauth and Luanna Falconer

The contract and process associated with the project is too flawed to be fixed and the city must restart the process from the beginning, MAPM said in a prepared statement, which reiterated its objections and concerns as set out in a petition that has been submitted to the city council.

The petition noted that the MAPM objected to the metered parking project because the process of its conception lacked transparency, did not adhere to the public procurement process and did not include consultation with the people of Guyana.

As a result, MAPM yesterday argued that the metered parking contract was illegal from its conception and that to seek to renegotiate an illegal contract is untenable and impractical.

“There is no quick fix. It must be scrapped and the process restarted in accordance with law and basic principles of good governance,” it said.

It further said that the two arguments presented by the city in support of paid parking do not stand up to scrutiny. These arguments are that the city will earn revenue and control traffic congestion.

MAPM notes that both the projected and actual figures earned from the project are unlikely to make a dent in the reported deficit of City Hall, while the fact that the council will receive only 20% of parking fees and 10% of revenue from value-added services further dilutes the argument.

“Other options are available which would yield higher revenue with lower impact,” it said, before adding that the notion that the city has not invested capital cannot be a justification for the percentage distribution since it has invested the largest capital in the way of immovable public property, while contractor Smart City Solution (SCS) has not made a deposit of any kind. It argued that the value of the essential property would usually result in a substantial deposit being paid to a city in order to operate a paid parking metered system.

Additionally, in the absence of a feasibility and/ impact study, the position that metered parking will ease traffic congestion is not evidence-based, MAPM also argued.

During the two-hour consultation, the members of the 10-member MAPM team consistently reiterated that while they are not against a system of paid parking, they could only support one that was evidence-based.

“We would support a parking system developed in accordance with and supported by a feasibility and social impact study. Studies conducted by an independent third party rather than the concessionaire,” MAPM member Luanna Falconer told the city council team.

Another member, Learie Barclay, sought to remind the council that those who objected to the project were their own supporters, who since 2015 have become more politically-active.

“Before 2015, people might have accepted this project without complaint but something was awakened in 2015 after the general elections and after the 2016 municipal elections. Something was awakened in people and they wanted something different. Your own supporters were outraged that you could do this to them,” he explained.

Team Legacy Councillor Malcolm Ferreira, who chairs the renegotiating committee, requested that the MAPM share with the committee the feedback it has received on the terms upon which members of the public were likely to support the contract.

In response, the MAPM delegation shared the results of an online survey, whose respondents gave positive responses to a cost of $10 to $20 per hour. These respondents also reportedly raised concerns about the lack of a proper public transportation system or any proper zoning in the application of metered parking system, while noting that the absence of local content in the studies referenced by the concessionaire suggested that the project was introduced in the absence of same.

The MAPM team argued that the people would support a contract for metered parking that was developed using a local feasibility study; that would allow for paid parking in zoned commercial sections of the city rather than everywhere; and which would be signed after a fair and transparent public procurement process.

Komal Ramnauth took time to specifically mention that MAPM will continue to police the process used in relation to the project.

“If there is a tender, we will police the tender criteria; things such as operating an existing parking system cannot be included as a means to exclude local contractors,” he said.

‘Bad contract’

Similar sentiments were raised by members of the business community when representative of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) met with the committee an hour after MAPM.

GCCI representatives argued that while persons have said they would support a $20 per hour of paid parking, it cannot be on the current contract.

“$20 versus $500 on a bad contract is a still a bad contract… we have issues with the breaking of the procurement laws,” one of them maintained.

They noted that if the consultation were just a cosmetic procedure, it is the council that would be wasting time. “We are not concerned with saving face—that is for the council—we are representing the interest of the private sector and these are our concerns,” one representative told the committee as the group also called for a feasibility study.

After the private sector representatives made repeated mention of the fact that 80% of the earnings from the project would be remitted out of the country under the current agreement, Ferreira asked if the fact that the concessionaire was a foreign company was one of their major objections.

In response, the representatives said that they support foreign investment but were less than pleased that while local businesses are complaining about the availability of foreign exchange, the metered parking project would be another drain on the currency market.

“Our imports are increasing and our export earnings decreasing. This is not a positive thing for business,” a representative said.

Both the MAPM and the private sector have promised to make written submissions to the committee, including all impact data they have compiled.

The metered parking project in the city was halted by the government following a public outcry and almost seven weeks of protest organized by the MAPM calling for the contract to be revoked.

Apart from Ferreira, the seven-member renegotiating committee comprises councillors Noelle Chow-Chee, Roopnarine Persaud, Ivelaw Henry, Tricia Richards, Carlyle Goring and Heston Bostwick.

Since the committee members were selected in early May, they have met with Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, who urged it to negotiate a contract that the entire council can freely support.

Today they meet with taxi and minibus owners/operators and the owners/operators of vehicles used for commercial purposes, while tomorrow they will meet with city residents.

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