The M&CC cannot hire contractors it cannot afford

Dear Editor,

The Mayor and City Council has noticed with concern statements emanating from different organizations and groups with respect to the current solid waste management situation affecting the city. The council appreciates the keen interest shown by those groups and organizations in the city, particularly, as it relates to garbage collection and disposal. Indeed, it is an important aspect of the council’s general obligation to the city.

However, once again, the council wishes to explain its position on this matter and to seek the cooperation of all stakeholders in its effort to advance the well-being of the nation’s capital.

Historically, the council has always struggled for money. Successive councils have sought unsuccessfully to improve the city treasury. Therefore, it has always been a question of resources or the lack of those things necessary to make the council efficient and effective.

It is no secret that the council owes its two main solid waste contractors, Puran Brothers and Cevons Waste Management, over $300M. Also, it is public knowledge that solid waste management accounts for a substantial portion of the council’s expenditure; the council must pay in excess of $50M per month to haul and dispose of the city’s waste. The council’s average monthly collection of rates is between $78M and $80M.

Although the council is happy to manage this responsibility and, in fact, has a statutory duty to do so under the law, to secure the integrity of its natural environment and public health, it clearly does not have the wherewithal to do that and discharge all of its other responsibilities to local communities. As a result, the council is unable to honour its financial obligations to its two solid waste partners, Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers, in a timely manner. As a consequence, they withdrew their services from the city. This immediately activated the emergency clause under the Act, which facilitates the use of other contractors to help the council clean the city.

The council is unable to fulfil its financial responsibilities for a number of reasons including the lack of valuation of properties in the city for over twenty years (the law stipulates every five (5) years); the failure of some property-owners to pay their property rates; the undervaluing of properties by some property-owners; the inability of the council to introduce new revenue earning measures; the changing demographics and attendant demands on city services; unprecedented environmental and public health occurrences as a consequence of global warming and climate change; and increases in the cost of commodities and goods used by the council to provide vital municipal services to the city.

Just to be clear, the city council has not disengaged with its contractors; in fact, we remain very grateful to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers for the services they have rendered, and they have been working overtime, even in the face of payment delays to ensure a clean and healthy city. The council continues to examine several ways by which it can settle its accounts with these partners. The council’s Finance Committee has scheduled meetings with its contractors over the coming weeks.

The reality is that the council cannot hire contractors it cannot afford. It is true that, the council’s present budget cannot sustain these substantial payments to all of its contractors. Nevertheless, the council has to rethink the way it organizes its work and its approach to providing quality services to all local neighbourhoods.

For example, the council needs to focus on an integrated solid waste management system. This requires a significant injection of funds to procure and install appropriate infrastructure, review legislation and manage a comprehensive environmental public awareness and education campaign. However, in the long term it will yield far better results than the current arrangement to

collect and dispose of waste.

This period provides the space to allow council to rethink, review, retool, re-equip and build capacity to provide services. It also allows the council the opportunity to test, measure and evaluate its competency in managing tons of waste produced by the city.

That notwithstanding, the council would rather focus on garnering monies to pay its contractors rather than the fact they have withdrawn their services because there are delays in their payment resulting from council’s negative financial position.

It is against this background, the council must, once again, appeal to businesses to pay their rates to the council. It is very worrying when those who owe the council large sums in outstanding rates, are the loudest among those who continue to criticize the council and dismiss its effort to secure the integrity of the city. The council’s financial records would show that many in the private sector, who make strange statements on the functionality of the council have not paid their rates as far back as ten years. Yet, the attempts by the council to improve conditions in the city go unappreciated by some of those very defaulters.

Also, the cumbersomeness of the judicial process to recover outstanding sums serves as a disincentive to prosecuting such defaulters and an encouragement to those who continue to default on their responsibility to the council and the city.

Essentially, this is why the council has been calling for a Municipal Court to deal with all municipal matters, including non-payment of rates to the council, without let or hindrance.

Notwithstanding that, the council is committed to protecting environmental and public health and the well-being of all communities within the precincts of Georgetown.

Citizens would recall that in 2015, under a new national leadership, it was this very city council that reversed the negative environmental and public health trends of the city. They would recall that there were piles of rotting garbage in every section of the city; it was unbearable for law-abiding and decent Guyanese. The Mayor and City Council reached out to all neighbourhoods using a community approach and cleaned every ward within Georgetown. More than six thousand local residents were employed by the council, to clean their communities and got paid for it.

The council is unswervingly committed to its statutory responsibilities as well as its social and moral obligations not only to protect the city but also to modernize it to allow it to stand shoulder to shoulder with the great cities of the world.

However, the bottom-line is money. The council needs every cent of its rates to provide services to citizens. The council has been making appeals and granting amnesties to defaulters. Still, many of them continue to owe council millions of dollars.

The council takes its responsibility seriously. It will not compromise the health and well-being of its citizens. It will do all things practicable to ensure that all citizens enjoy a clean, green and healthy environment.

Yours faithfully,

Royston King

Municipal Clerk

City of Georgetown

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