Déjà Vu? City’s $150M debt could see withdrawal of garbage disposal services

Is another city garbage crisis looming?

The capital’s two biggest waste disposal companies, Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers appear poised to take steps to press City Hall into making good on payments due to the two companies for services provided earlier this year, the debt now having reached a figure well in excess of $150 million dollars since government’s intervention last year to liquidate the more than $300 million owing to the two companies up to that time.

On Monday, during a media tour to the Haag Bosch Landfill Site on the East Bank Demerara which is being managed jointly by the two companies, Cevons Waste Management Chief Executive Officer, Morse Archer demonstrated clear signs of frustration as he related what he says is City Hall’s “unchanging attitude” to doing business with its contractors. “I really don’t see how we can go on like this. There is a huge cost to running this service including equipment and workers’ salaries,” Archer told Stabroek Business.

Puran Brothers General Manager, Kaleshwar Pooran assumed a similar posture and though he makes the point about the inability of the company to transfer its inventory to serving another client, pointing out that its trucks cannot simply be modified “to fetch sand,” he too understands that the situation has become untenable.

Cevon’s Waste Management boss Morse Archer

The ritual round of letters to the various ‘connected’ public officials has already begun with communication to Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan though on Monday neither of the two companies was prepared to say whether they thought that this time around government would show up to rescue the situation. However, the point made at the media briefing by another Cevon’s senior official, Morris Archer, that the threatened

meltdown was occurring at a time when Christmas was approaching, appeared to be a strategic attention-getter designed to focus the attention of both government and City Hall. City Hall, when we checked, appeared none the wiser.

Their own dilemma notwithstanding, the Heads of both companies are unambiguous in their pronouncement about not allowing the situation to return to where it was last year. City Hall, Archer says, has been employing the ruse of summoning the companies to meetings ostensibly to discuss payments (and contract modification) but has been avoiding the issue of payment at the actual ‘sit down’ sessions. The two sides are set for another meeting today after which, Archer says, “bets are off.” In the absence of some measure of payment the city is likely to face the withdrawal of garbage disposal services, a circumstance that could well mean a return to the miserable makeshift arrangements that followed the companies’ withdrawal of services late last year.

On Wednesday, speaking from the Board Room of the Eccles landfill site, both service providers appeared much more prepared to move collectively into a brinkmanship zone with City Hall which, even now, is in the throes of a Commission of Inquiry into its operations based on multi-faceted concerns about the functioning of the municipality. Over the past few days several witnesses, some prominent businessmen, have testified to the Commission of Inquiry about what they say are the sloth, incompetence and corruption at City Hall. As the COI progresses there are numerous wagers amongst watchers of municipal affair as to   whether Town Clerk Royston King will survive the outcome.

As he has done in the past Archer, in an exchange with the Stabroek Business, took the position that whilst the implications of a withdrawal of services for the city as a whole were clear, the two service providers had no other leverage in their effort to recoup monies with which the keep their operations going.

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