Chairman of the Local Government Commission (LGC) Mortimer Mingo has rebuffed assertions that as an executive of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) he should resign from his constitutional post.
“…I am calling upon Mr. Mingo to immediately resign and immediately vacate the office of the Chairman of the Local Government Commission. Why? He was elected to the Executive of the People’s National Congress Reform at its August 2018 Congress. His engagement in such public political activity prevents him from being a fair actor on the Local Government Commission,” economist Sasenarine Singh wrote in a letter, published in this newspaper last Friday.
In the letter, he listed qualities he believes the holder of a constitutional office should have. Singh said party affiliation alone gives the perception that one could not be impartial. “As Head of the Local Government Commission, whose main function is to deal with all matters relating to the local government system, Mr. Mortimer Mingo is expected to be free of party affiliation much less hold a leadership position in a political party if the perception is to be preserved that he is independent, without bias and is fit to carry out his functions professionally and objectively,” he wrote.
However, the Local Government Commission Act does not state that the LGC Chairman or members should not be affiliated with political parties; it only says that they should not be holding a government office.
According to the Local Government Commission Act, the commission shall consist of eight members: three appointed by the President acting in accordance with his own deliberate judgement; three members appointed by the president acting on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition after consultation with other parliamentary parties; one appointed by the President after approval by the National Assembly upon a nomination by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Appointments from persons submitted by trade unions within the local government system; and one appointed by the minister after consultation with Local Democratic Organs.
Mingo was chosen as Chairman by members Clement Corlette, Marlon Williams, Joan-Ann Romascindo, Carol Sooba, Norman Whittaker, Clinton Collymore and Andrew Garnett.
Whittaker was Minister of Local Government under the PPP, while Sooba was installed by the PPP/C as the Town Clerk of Georgetown. Both Collymore and Whittaker are executives of the PPP.
Nonetheless, Singh believes that “the Chair-man of any constitutional service commission should fulfil the following qualities: Uphold the integrity and independence of the commission; Perform the duties of the office fairly, impartially and diligently; Refrain from political activity.”
But Mingo disregarded Singh’s position.
“I am a member of the PNC Reform and that has nothing to do with my function as Local Government Commission Chair-man,” Mingo told Stabroek News.
While not naming any person, he pointed out that there are persons on the Local Government and other Commissions who are also political party members and they do not allow their party work to influence their other work. “It is like a person who holds other constitutional positions…I don’t see any conflict and I do my work without conflict,” he said.
The functions of the LGC include: to monitor and review the performance and implementation of policies of all local government organs, including policies of taxation and protection of the environment; monitor, evaluate and make recommendations on policies, procedures and practices of all local government organs; investigate any matter under its purview and propose remedial action to the minister; and monitor and review all existing and proposed legislation, and or policies and measures relating to local government organs.
Furthermore, the LGC is to deal with all matters relating to the staffing of local government organs and in particular it is “responsible for employment, transfer, discipline and dismissal of staff and approval of remuneration, superannuation, training, leave and promotion of staff.”
The LGC is also empowered to hear appeals instituted by employees who have been dismissed by local government organs and hear and determine disputes arising within a local government area or between any two local government organs.
Importantly, the LGC has the “…power to initiate and conduct investigations into the activities of any local government organ….”