In the first public exercise of its powers, the Local Government Commission (LGC) has instructed the Rose Hall Town Council to rescind its recent hiring of a Town Clerk, while saying that it exceeded the authority given to it to recruit candidates for the post.
“…the Rose Hall Town Council has clearly acted outside of its remit, and has been instructed by letter from the Commission to rescind the hiring of any person so appointed to fill the vacant position of Town Clerk of that municipality, and this vacancy will only be filled upon the consideration and written approval of the Commissioners of the Local Government Commission of Guyana as provided for by law,” the LGC announced by way of a statement last Friday.
The statement was issued in response to a report in last Wednesday’s Stabroek News about the hiring of the Town Clerk, which Mayor Vijay Kumar Ramoo defended as a matter of urgency. He said the LGC had failed to respond in a timely manner to a request from the council.
Ramoo yesterday said that only a vote by two-thirds of the council in favour of the LGC’s request would lead to a removal of the Town Clerk.
“I am not acting unilaterally. It was a council decision and in keeping with local government regulations it must be rescinded by a two-thirds majority,” Ramoo stated.
Ramoo previously explained to this newspaper that the post was duly advertised and three candidates applied. These candidates were interviewed and the present acting Town Clerk emerged as the most suitable.
These interviews were conducted in February and their results were forwarded to Chairman of the LGC Mortimer Mingo for action. Speaking with this newspaper on the day he received Rose Hall’s request, Mingo noted that it was one of “more than a dozen” issues which had been referred to the LGC for action.
At the time, he indicated that he was responding to all correspondence with an acknowledgment and a promise that the LGC would act “soonest.”
However, in its statement, the LGC indicated that in keeping with Section 19 of the Local Government Commission Act 2013 (delegation of powers), it agreed via letter to delegate to the Town Council and all other local government organs, the authority of recruitment (advertising, shortlisting and interviewing) for staff.
This was, however, conditional, with the council being required to inform the LGC of such vacancies before engaging in the recruitment procedure and consequent recommendation for appointment by the Commission.
“The Rose Hall Council was also informed in this letter dated March 21st, 2018 that the local government organs shall ensure that an officer of the Local Government Commission is present during the shortlisting and interviewing process. The officer would be an observer of the procedure and would not offer any advice or suggestion unless so directed by the Local Government Commission,” the statement said.
Based on the timeline available to Sunday Stabroek, this advice was offered more than a month after Rose Hall had completed the process.
The LGC noted that the Rose Hall Town Council executed the delegated tasks and exceeded this clearly outlined mandate by “purporting to hire a Town Clerk, clearly in contravention to the stated delegated functions.”
As a consequence the Commission wrote to the council again on April 10th, 2018 instructing it to rescind this action since the law clearly states the LGC has exclusive powers of employment.
The statement expressed the LGC’s “serious concern that the Council again disregarded…direct lawful directives.”
“The Local Government Commission of Guyana is committed to ensuring that the letter and spirit of the law as enshrined in the Local Government Commission Act is adhered to, in order to ensure good governance for all. This includes ensuring that all of the local government organs under its purview are held accountable to the statutes and regulations that fall within our mandate,” it added.
Ramoo yesterday laid the blame for the current situation at the feet of the LGC, which he said failed to perform its functions.
“The council has a right to make sure its work is carried out. I called the LGC numerous times letting them know it was an urgent matter and they kept saying two weeks, two weeks. How many two weeks was the council supposed to wait?” the Mayor asked.
He stressed that if his council is not prepared to accommodate the LGC and it maintains its position, he is prepared to take the matter to court.
“If it comes to that, the court will have to pronounce on whether it wasn’t because the LGC didn’t do its job that the council was forced to protect its interest,” Ramoo explained.
The LGC has requested a meeting with the full council on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the issue. (Thandeka Percival)