The metered parking by-laws will be forwarded by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan for his approval on May 18 but the contract which they empower will not come into effect for another 90 days.
At yesterday’s statutory meeting Deputy Mayor Akeem Peter requested that council approve an extension for the effective date of the amended contract which was approved in December.
He noted that without this extension the contract “will expire.” At Peter’s request, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green tabled the motion which was accepted with a mere two dissenting voices: those of former Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran and PPP/C councillor Bishram Kuppen.
Town Clerk Royston King later told Stabroek News that the council is hoping that within that time Justice Brassington Reynolds would have made a ruling in the application filed by Mohendra Arjune to have the court quash the M&CC’s agreement with SCS.
Arjune’s application for judicial review is based on the contention that the city failed to comply with the law in entering the contract. His lawyer Kamal Ramkarran has argued that the M&CC failed to comply with mandatory prerequisites set out in Sections 230 and 231 of the Municipal and District Councils Act.
Section 231 of the Act states that before entering into any contract for the execution of any work or the supply of any goods to the value of $250,000 or more, a council is required to give notice of such proposed contract and “shall by such notice invite any person willing to undertake the same to submit a sealed tender thereof to the council….” The project was not publicly tendered, which has been one of the bases upon which it has been criticized.
Ramkarran also contends that by entering into the May 13, 2016 contract, the M&CC unlawfully and in an ultra vires manner delegated its statutorily derived power to erect and maintain parking meters under and in terms of Section 276(b) of the Act and acted contrary to Section 21 of the Civil Law Act of Guyana, which prohibits the establishment of monopolies in Guyana. He also argued that the decision by the M&CC and SCS to exempt teachers and employees of the Bank of Guyana from charges was arbitrary, discriminatory and contrary to the operation of the rule of law.
At its last Statutory meeting on April 24 the council granted an extension until May 8th for citizens desirous of commenting on the new metered parking by-laws to do so.
These by-laws had on April 4th been approved by majority vote. They were displayed for comment the next day even as the controversial metered parking project, which has been suspended since March, 2017 remained dormant.
The amended by-laws were approved despite pleas from three councilors to halt the process until such time as a decision is delivered in the High Court on a challenge raised against the municipality’s contract with concessionaire Smart City Solutions.
King told the April statutory meeting that the city has received lots of comments on the by-laws, including a submission from the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).
“These comments will be forwarded to the minister with the by-laws. It is not for council to debate the merit of these comments,” he later explained to Stabroek News.
The High Court had previously declared the decision by Minister of Communities Bulkan to approve the previous by-laws null and void.
In his ruling, Justice Nareshwar Harnanan noted the minister’s failure in following the procedure mandated by the Municipal and District Councils Act for bringing the by-laws into force. The New Building Society had contested the legality of the by-laws, arguing, in part, that the procedure for their approval, as stipulated in the Act, had not been followed.
The NBS had argued, also, that by failing to gazette its intention to apply for Bulkan’s permission, City Hall, the second named respondent in the action, acted outside the law. While the court did not take particular issue with the notice of intention not being gazetted, it noted that newspaper publications on it were not sufficient notice as prescribed by the Act.