Guyana now has its first ever Local Government Commission (LGC).
The eight members of the constitutionally mandated body corporate were sworn in at a State House ceremony which President David Granger hailed as a demonstration of his government’s commitment to good governance, respect for the constitution and local democracy.
The member of the LGC are Mortimer Mingo, Clement Corlette, Marlon Williams, Joan-Ann Romascindo, Carol Sooba, Norman Whittaker, Clinton Collymore and Andrew Garnett.
However even as Granger repeatedly stressed that the ceremony reaffirmed that the Republic remains strongly on the path of constitutionalism at least one member of the commission has been selected based on a suspect interpretation of the constitution.
According to the Local Government Commission Act the commission shall consist of eight members: three appointed by the President acting in accordance with his own deliberate judgement; three members appointed by the president acting on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition after consultation with other parliamentary parties, one appointed by the President after approval by the National Assembly upon a nomination by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Appointments from persons submitted by trade unions within the local government system and one appointed by the minister after consultation with Local Democratic Organs.
It is this last member, whom Minister Ronald Bulkan has identified as Marlon Williams whose process of selection is less than clear.
Williams, the General Secretary of the Alliance for Change (AFC) had previously been identified by the party as their nominee. It is unclear why Williams would be selected by local organs.
Yesterday Bulkan noted his qualification for the position as that of being a business executive and seasoned politician. He will hold the post along with two former Ministers of Local Government, a Former Town Clerk for Georgetown, two former Regional Chairpersons and a longstanding Regional Councillor.
Though the legislation calls for the Minister to have consulted with Local Government Organs, which are defined in the Local Government Act as any local government authority including any city or town or any division thereof or any council established under the Amerindian Act, Bulkan told reporters that he had consulted with the Guyana Association of Municipalities last month.
Asked if in selecting Williams the legislation did not compel consultation with at least the 71 organs which participated in last year’s local government elections Bulkan said that was not his interpretation.
“I am unfamiliar with which section of the legislation refers to consultation with 71 organs. My interpretation and understanding of the legislation is that it required I consult with Local Democratic Organs. The institution that I’m aware of, the only one I’m aware of, that governs local government organs is the Guyana Association of Municipalities, hence my discussion took place with the GAM as to the election of my nominee,” the Minister stated.
Meanwhile, the President stressed that “the Local Government Commission …can provide for the autonomy of local democratic organs in accordance with the Constitution.”
“It will prevent the unlawful, executive and political intrusion into the work of local government organs and it will promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public services to citizens and their communities,” he added before calling on it members to adopt a Code of Service to guide their operations in line with the 10 vital values of transparency, accountability, dignity, diligence, duty, honour, integrity, loyalty and objectivity.” he noted.
President David Granger appointed Corlette, Mingo and Romascindo, while the Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo nominated Whittaker, Sooba and Collymore.
In April, 2016, the Committee of Appointments had named Garnett, of the Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union, as the nominee from the trade unions. This nomination was approved by the House in August, 2016. The PPP/C had named its nominees in July, 2016.
The government had been criticized for not appointing the LGC considering that landmark local government elections were held in March 2016. It gave numerous deadlines for the establishment and did not select its nominees until recently. It means that for more than a year local authorities elected in March last year have not had recourse to the LGC.
The functions of the LGC include: to monitor and review the performance and implementation of policies of all local government organs, including policies of taxation and protection of the environment; monitor, evaluate and make recommendations on policies, procedures and practices of all local government organs; investigate any matter under its purview and propose remedial action to the minister; monitor and review all existing and proposed legislation, and or policies and measures relating to local government organs.
Furthermore, the LGC is to deal with all matters relating to the staffing of local government organs and in particular it is “responsible for employment, transfer, discipline and dismissal of staff and approval of remuneration, superannuation, training, leave and promotion of staff”.
The LGC is also empowered to hear appeals instituted by employees who have been dismissed by local government organs and hear and determine disputes arising within a local government area or between any two local government organs.
Importantly, the LGC has the “…power to initiate and conduct investigations into the activities of any local government organ…”