Some APNU+AFC members of the Georgetown City Council who earned their seat through the Constituency system have told Stabroek News that they are prepared to end the life of the Metered Parking contract when the council meets today.
At the heart of their decision are questions about whether Town Clerk Royston King overstepped the boundaries of his office and entered into the contract without the approval of council.
“I have not seen the minutes which authorized the town clerk to sign this contract. I don’t know if it exists and will ask for it to be made available. In the mean time I will be voting that we cancel the entire contract and start afresh or not go at all,” Councillor Gregory Fraser, of Constituency 8 (Wortmanville/ Werk-en-Rust/Stabroek) told Stabroek News. Fraser who was a member of the previous council explained that he does not remember voting on any motion in relation to this contract adding that a thorough check of his own records has failed to unearth any mention of the contract. The vast majority of the APNU+AFC members represent the APNU section of the governing coalition.
While Fraser, an APNU councillor is willing to boldly revoke the contract other APNU councillors are more cautious.
Councillor Akeem Peters of Constituency 5 explains that while he believes all of the recommendations speak towards revocation of the contract he will be voting for the fifth option which would defer revocation until the High Court rules on the legality of the contract.
“My constituents want the contract to be revoked and I will be going with option E since it is the way to cover all the bases and protect the council from any fallout,” Peters explained.
City Councillor Junior Garrett who represents Constituency 3 was not prepared to disclose his vote. A member of the “fantastic four” who visited Mexico and Panama last year in connection with the parking meters deal, Garrett noted that he is well prepared to participate in the discussion of the report.
“I have my presentation to make. I don’t want to preempt anything. Tomorrow I will make my presentation and say everything if I am given the chance,” Garrett whose signature appears on the revised contract told Stabroek News.
Monica Thomas, constituency 9 who asked last month for discussions on the report to be postponed, told Stabroek News that she is ready to participate today. She explained that she has read and is comfortable with her understanding of the report which she referred to as excellent however she is not sure how she will vote.
Thomas stressed that she is looking forward to the meeting and intends to listen carefully to the presentations from other councillors.
Meanwhile, Lyndon Hilliman of Constituency 6: Cummings Lodge North, Central & South, Pattensen/Turkeyen South remained supportive of the metered parking.
Though he is yet to read the report, Hilliman noted that he is open to an adjustment of the contract and looks forward to a proper compromise being reached today.
“I am not working [today] so I will spend the morning going through it [the report],” he explained.
While the APNU councillors appear divided, the three AFC councillors are all certain of how they will be voting.
“This has been going on long enough, it is time. It’s getting down to the meat of the matter,” Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran said of today’s meeting.
Jaikarran who was elected to represent Constituency One (Kingston/ Queenstown) said that while he has read the reports submitted by the review committee and is ready to vote he has only been provided with an agenda which provides for “discussion” alone.
“We should be going to vote but I don’t know if that will happen,” Jaikarran said. He however refrained from stating exactly which of the five recommendations he will be voting for.
Jaikarran’s reticence might be nothing more than a formality since his party, the Alliance for Change (AFC) has publicly stated that its councillors will be voting for the revocation of the contract.
The other two AFC councillors have also clearly indicated that they will be voting for a revocation of the contract.
Sherod Duncan who represents Constituency 14 has noted that his reading of the report shows that each recommendation cancels the present contract.
He explained to Stabroek News that he is prepared to throw his support behind the fourth option of continuing the Metered Parking System Independently in accordance with the legal and transparent process outlined in the Municipal and District Council’s Act.
“I will be there willing to vote for D. Anything that is voted is cancelling the contract, each recommendation cancels the contract. Everything I have seen and read, from the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General and journalists and the accountants, says that this contract is a bad idea. No one has been able to advance a proper argument in support of this contract so I will be voting to revoke it,” Duncan explained.
His colleague Carlyle Goring of Constituency 2 (Kitty North, Central, South and Subryanville) will also be voting to revoke the contract.
He maintains however that his position is a representation of the views of the residents he represents.
“My constituents are saying they don’t have a problem with parking meters but with the methodology through which this contract was negotiated and signed. They said they were pleased with the impact of parking meters though they are not sure if it was because of the boycott. As their representative I must therefore vote on the option which represents their view so I will be voting to rescind the contract and have any similar project completed in compliance with the city’s procurement laws. The council is a legal entity and once the laws are complied with I will give it complete support. The party has a position but I am the people’s representative,” Goring explained.
The Metered Parking Contract between the city of Georgetown and Smart City Solutions (SCS) has for the last year been the source of much controversy. Councillors, citizens and political commentators have questioned its legality and accused Town Clerk Royston King and Mayor Patricia Chase-Green of abusing their powers and entering into the contract without the permission of the council. Questions have also been raised about what due diligence has been exercised in relation to SCS whose behaviour the Ministry of Finance has tagged as being reminiscent of “shell companies”
The report specifically says that though SCS was asked to provide proof of its stated millions in investments, it refused to do so. The company also refused to share with the committee its feasibility study and business proposal unless its members agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement.
The council will at an extra-ordinary meeting discuss and vote on the recommendations made by the Metered Parking Renegotiation Committee. The committee, led by Team Legacy Councillor Malcolm Ferreira, submitted to council a 25-page final report that recommends five options, including continuing with the project with SCS, albeit with a renegotiated contract, or alternatively discontinuing the project by rescinding the contract and leaving the city without metered parking.
Also recommended is for council to request a further suspension of the implementation of the metered parking system, pending the outcome of the court proceedings after which it may use the court ruling as a legal guide to inform any further action.
The metered parking project was suspended by Central Government in March after which the seven-member committee was mandated to review the contract, consult with all stakeholders and recommend possible solutions to any impasse that may arise from the implementation of the metered parking project.
The team was specifically tasked with addressing five areas of concern identified by Central Government. These included the unequal terms of the contract, which disproportionately favours the concessionaire; the fees, which are too burdensome; the too high penalties for non-compliance; and the exclusion of gazetted public roads and certain areas around schools and hospitals.
After two months of stakeholder engagements, the committee submitted its report to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Town Clerk Royston King on August 2.