PPP/C-nominated commissioners absent from first local gov’t commission meeting

The long-awaited Local Government Commission (LGC) may have been appointed but its first meeting yesterday yielded no result as the opposition-nominated commissioners did not attend.

On Monday, the eight members of the LGC took their oaths of office and committed to begin the work of the commission.

Former Minister of Local Government and Regional Development under the PPP/C Clinton Collymore had told Stabroek News that he “welcomed” the appointments, which were “overdue.”

Norman Whittaker, who also held the post of Minister of Local Government and Regional Development under the former PPP/C government, had explained that “the expectation is that the minister will summon the commission and we have a discussion on how to move forward.” He expressed the hope that the LGC would be allowed to carry out its functions without political interference and noted that expectations were high.

However, when the expected meeting was arranged for yesterday at 1 pm, both men were absent as was former Georgetown Town Clerk Carol Sooba.

Collymore, Whittaker and Sooba are the members of the LGC appointed by the president, acting on the advice of the leader of the opposition.

Attempts to contact PPP/C Chief Whip Gail Teixeira for an explanation were unsuccessful, however, the absence of the commissioners at the meeting came in wake of an announced campaign by the opposition of non-cooperation with government, to protest President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of the Guyana Elections Commission chairman.

According to a statement from the Department of Public Information (DPI) last evening, Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan indicated that LGC members had been briefed on the importance of crafting a work plan, given the urgency of their mandates and a meeting was duly scheduled to elect officer holders to manage the work of the commission.

“A meeting was scheduled for today (October 27) at 1 pm and this was communicated to all members in an email correspondence… it was my hope that they all could have attended and participated. I was now made to understand that a meeting was held and the three PPP (Peoples’ Progressive Party) members did not attend,” the minister was quoted as saying.

Also quoted was Commissioner Mortimer Mingo, who told the DPI that “the agenda item should have been the election of the chairman of the commission as well as the deputy chairman.”

He reportedly added that the hope was that the work of the commission would have commenced immediately.

“We have a very huge responsibility of overseeing the local government organs of this country and we thought we would have been able to carry on with the commission’s business,” Mingo noted.

Other items on the agenda included the 2018 budget, identification of a building to facilitate the operations of the commission, employment of technical, clerical and administrative staff and the drafting of a work plan.

Meanwhile, DPI reported that other commissioners present at meeting were looking forward to working together to address the needs of the local government organs.

“We want to ensure that there is absolute adherence to the principles of good governance as far as the conduct of our business is concern,” Commissioner Andrew Garnett said. Commissioner Clement Corlette added, “We believe the commission should work collectively in bringing about the necessary supervision and improvement to the local government system in the country and it’s for that reason we didn’t proceed with the business at hand. To give a chance to all the assigned commissioners to be on board.”

While the meeting was adjourned and rescheduled to Tuesday, October 31 at the Public Buildings, Minister Bulkan reminded that the meeting already held “constitutes a formal one, because under the legislation three members comprise a quorum, so any decision that would have been… is certainly official.”

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