AFC to lobby for revocation of city parking meter contract

-Ramjattan

Coalition government partner the Alliance For Change (AFC) has signaled its intention to advocate for the revocation of the Georgetown city council’s controversial metered parking contract with Smart City Solutions (SCS) at every level of government.

Speaking at a party press conference on Thursday, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan reiterated that the party does not support the contract in its current form and maintains that it was borne out of a bad arrangement.

Ramjattan stressed that the party unequivocally supports the position of its councillors who voted against a renegotiation of the contract with SCS, and maintained that the Mayor and City Council is best advised to pursue a path which benefits from wide consultation and transparency.

At a vote last week Thursday, 13 of the 25 councillors present voted to continue renegotiations. However, the three AFC councillors were not part of this majority. Councillors Sherod Duncan and Lionel Jaikarran voted to rescind the contract and leave the city without metered parking, while Councillor Carlyle Goring voted to await the High Court’s decision on the legality of the contract.

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan

Stabroek News asked Ramjattan if he and other AFC members of Cabinet are willing to support the councillors’ vote by advocating at that level for central government to “frustrate” the contract, which is an avenue identified to the city’s renegotiation committee by Attorney-General Basil Williams.

In response, Ramjattan noted that the position held by the party means that “as a party… logically at other forums, including Cabinet, we are going to take the position that it is borne of a bad arrangement.” The contract was not publicly tendered, in violation of the procurement laws.

“If it is not good for the councillors, we are going to hold that position at all other forum… we have evidence that it is very unpopular and might not be in the best interest of the people, so we will hold that position if it comes to Parliament or to Cabinet,” Ramjattan said.

The bylaws for the metered parking were suspended by central government in March, thereby putting the project on hold in order to facilitate the renegotiation committee’s review of the contract, consultations with stakeholders and recommendations on possible solutions to any impasse that may arise from its implementation. The committee was specifically tasked with addressing five areas of concern identified by central government, including the unequal terms of the contract, which disproportionately favours the concessionaire; the burdensome parking fees; the high penalties for non-compliance; and the inclusion of gazetted public roads and certain areas around schools and hospitals in metered zones.

After three months of stakeholder engagements, the committee submitted its report to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Town Clerk Royston King on August 2. In that report, it noted 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.

However, the report says “given the public nature of the parking meter fiasco the committee found it necessary to reject the idea of signing a non-disclosure agreement or to be bound by secrecy.”

Nonetheless, several councillors, including committee Vice-Chairperson Noelle Chow-Chee voted for the city to work with SCS to improve the contract rather than revoke it.

It has already been decided that a seven member committee, with Town Clerk Royston King and Treasurer Ron McCalman as advisors, will embark on the renegotiation once its Terms of Reference have been crafted.

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