A new negotiating committee was elected on Monday by the Mayor and City Councillors to renegotiate the metered parking contract with Smart City Solutions (SCS).
To date it is unclear whether SCS is amenable to any renegotiation. It has not been heard from publicly for months.
The committee comprises seven councillors, six of whom are from APNU and one from Team Benschop for Mayor. The new committee will be headed by APNU Councillor Akeem Peter, with fellow Councillor Noelle Chow Chee as the vice-chairman. Other members of the committee include veteran Councillor Oscar Clarke, APNU Councillors Ivelaw Henry, Heston Bostwick, James Samuels, and Jameel Rassul from Team Benschop for Mayor. PPP/C Councillor Bishram Kuppen was also nominated during the process, but declined the nomination. A nomination was also made for Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran, but due to his absence at Monday’s sitting, the nomination was not accepted.
Fifteen councillors voted for the committee, with Kuppen voting against the nominations while APNU Councillors Alfred Mentore and Roopnarine Persaud, and Team Legacy’s Malcolm Ferreira abstained.
At the conclusion of voting, Town Clerk Royston King announced that four names from members of the public had been submitted to his office. While he did not disclose the names of the individuals, he stated that they are professionals in the fields of engineering, law and accountancy. The names are expected to be circulated among the councillors, and they will elect two of the four individuals at the next statutory meeting.
Meanwhile, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green said that the new committee will function under the Terms of Reference used by the previous committee which had been chaired by Councillor Ferreira. She noted that if the need arises for more scope to be added to the terms of reference, the committee should recommend it and the council will vote on it.
Executive member of the pressure group, Movement Against Parking Meters, Don Singh on Monday said that they are “once again dismayed and disgusted that the Mayor and the Town Clerk continue to oppress the citizenry of Georgetown with this farcical and illegal parking meter contract with Smart City Solutions.”
Singh added that they are also disappointed that Clarke, a signatory “to the original contract and a member of the ‘due diligence’ team to Mexico, is once again in the mix. This is an obvious conflict of interest.”
He stressed that the “parking meter fiasco has become absurd and we dare say, an absolute joke of which the citizens are not laughing,” while stating that the group foresees no new outcome from this committee, since the previous committee had been denied access to vital financial information by SCS.
At a statutory meeting in September it was decided that the nine-member committee would comprise of seven councillors, and two members of the public who will have voting rights. King and City Treasurer Ron McCalman will also sit on the committee, but only in an advisory capacity.
This will be the second committee the council has set up to renegotiate its controversial contract with SCS. The first was put together after the metered parking project had been suspended by central government in March. 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 favoured the concessionaire; the fees, which were too burdensome; the very high penalties for non-compliance; and the inclusion of gazetted public roads and certain areas around schools and hospitals.
After three months of stakeholder engagements, the committee submitted its report to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Town Clerk King on August 2.
At an extraordinary statutory meeting on September 7, a majority of councillors, 13 out of 25, voted to continue the metered parking system with SCS, pending a renegotiation of the controversial contract with the company.
In renegotiating the contract, the new committee will have to address and resolve all of the points/findings listed in the report of the last renegotiation committee.
As the Council voted to renegotiate the contract with the SCS, the committee will have to host public meetings to appraise all stakeholders of the findings of the committee, and to articulate and further discuss the areas which should be included in the new contract; being provided with any and all documents by SCS Inc. within reasonable time when requested, including those of a financial nature; as well as, being provided with relevant documents, such as a feasibility study, business plan and environmental impact assessment. The committee also called for due diligence to be observed, as it related to any new agreement or amendment to any existing agreement, and the completion of an independent “Project Analysis” to offer proper guidance.
In the report submitted by Ferreira and his team, it was revealed that the concessionaire, SCS had vastly inflated estimates of its capital investment. The report stated that SCS had refused to provide documentation.
The report says consultations with an independent accountant raised red flags about the veracity of several of SCS’s claims. It notes that the accountant found that there was more than a 25% variance in SCS’s estimation of its original operations total and the accountant’s total. The variance is in excess of $600 million.
Accountant Lancelot Atherly found that the total was adjusted for apparent excessive estimates. He further explained that 25% is a conservative estimate and that the actual variance could be as much as 50%, since quite a lot of figures are overstated, and some aspects seem vastly overstated, bloated and inflated.