Cabinet approves City Hall’s request to pay debt to private garbage contractors

Cabinet has approved a request from City Hall to pay the city’s debt to private garbage contractors, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced on Thursday.

Harmon told a post-Cabinet press briefing that the approval has allowed for the Ministry of Finance to reach out to the contractors to make either whole or partial payment.

“The matter required a Cabinet decision which allowed for the Minister of Finance to proceed to negotiate with them and I’m aware the Minister of Finance is now engaged with these parties to make a payment either in whole or in part,” Harmon said.

The city approached the Central Government through the Ministry of Communities for a bailout of $475,635,245 to settle its longstanding debt to Puran Brothers Disposal Inc and Cevons Waste Management Inc as well as another company, Dartmouth Skips Rental.

City Hall has publicly stated that it wishes to re-engage Puran Brothers and Cevons, after being unable to adequately undertake collection in the capital, even with the retention of smaller contractors.

However, up to Thursday, at least one of them had not been contacted as yet.

Kaleshwar Puran, General Manager of Puran Brothers, told Stabroek News that his company was happy to resume its services to the city once it has been paid. However, he noted that though the company has seen it reported that City Hall intends to make contact, this has yet to happen.

“We just saw it on the news and are hoping it proves to be true but no, no one has contacted us. Not as yet,” he explained.

Morse Archer, Managing Director of Cevons, noted that he returned to Guyana on Wednesday and did not receive information about his company being contacted but could not say if contact had been made on Thursday.

In August, Puran Brothers and Cevons announced plans to suspend their services over the city’s failure to honour its financial obligations. At the time, they were owed in excess of $300 million and declared that they could not afford to continue to provide the services. In response, City Hall said it viewed this action as a termination of their contracts, based on the fact that there was no provision in their respective agreements for the suspension of services.

Three other contractors were employed to perform the services while the city also deployed its own garbage trucks to assist in clearing the commercial district.

The city’s Solid Waste Director Walter Narine told Stabroek News on Monday that once the payment is made to the contractors by central government, they would be able to recommence garbage collection in the city, albeit on new terms.

He said that the two companies “will not come back with the luxury they had [before their withdrawal]. They both had five groups each. But going forward we are looking at splitting up the constituency’s clearance and in that, all of the contractors get a bite.”

If realised, this new arrangement would see the city in charge of collecting garbage from the municipal markets, and high waste producing areas, including the commercial district.

“The city would be in charge of four constituencies and the contractors would all have two [constituencies] each,” Narine explained, while noting that the areas would be spilt among Puran Brothers, Cevons, Grandison Waste and SanDip Waste Disposal.

The projected cost of the new arrangement is pegged at some $10 million per month as opposed to $43 million when Puran Brothers and Cevons were contracted for collection.

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