A renegotiated illegal contract is still an illegal contract

Dear Editor,

“Under the law, we can initiate parking meters in Georgetown, and we will. No matter how many people you bring to gather and make noise outside, that doesn’t change the position of Council. Council has a right and Council will carry out that right.” – Oscar Clarke, PNCR Councillor. This arrogant and distasteful statement sums up the contempt that the Mayor and City Councillors hold for the citizens of Georgetown who for months stood up for their right to reject this most corrupt and despicable contract with Smart City Solutions. From the utterances of Oscar Clarke who is one of the fantastic four that went on the all-expenses paid jaunt to Mexico at the behest of SCS, one would believe that only the M&CC has rights even if it means strangling the working class citizens of Georgetown.

It has already been established that the contract the M&CC signed with SCS has breached all the local procurement laws and Section 231 of the Municipal and District Councils Act Chapter 28:01 which clearly states that contracts in excess of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars must be advertised for public tendering. The Government of Guyana through its Ministry of Finance also acknowledged this breach in their June 23, 2016 review of the SCS contract when they stated inter alia that “government procurement procedures may have been violated, in that a tender was not advertised and bids reviewed for acceptance’” and recommended that the project be “re-tender[ed](assuming that it was done before…).”

Notwithstanding all of this, the M&CC seems proud that they have accomplished the impossible, which is to have successfully renegotiated an illegal contract. This is comedy at its best. How can an illegal contract be renegotiated? What’s more, this renegotiation was done by none other than the newly anointed deputy Mayor. One wonders, is the deputy Mayor qualified to renegotiate a multi-million dollar, forty year contract? Was legal representation present during the renegotiation? Were the feasibility and social impact studies, which are key prerequisites for contracts of this nature and magnitude produced for scrutiny? Who reviewed these studies? In the absence of these studies to determine the levels of fees and fines, one can only assume that the new rates were pulled out of a hat and the so called renegotiation is nothing but a sham.

The consequences of the parking meter project are far reaching. It will impact negatively on businesses and reduce the disposable income of the average worker who already faces severe economic conditions. Low disposable income means lower sales for businesses and lower VAT and other tax payments to GRA. Would poor sales be the final straw for businesses that are already struggling in an anaemic low growth economy to start laying off staff? It was recently announced that the economy only grew a meagre 2.1% in the first quarter of this year, well below the projected target. Do the Mayor and Councillors who voted for the resumption of the project truly understand the hardships that their actions are going to impose on the ordinary Guyanese who are trying to make a living?

Is the City Council aware that the Government of Guyana commissioned a Sustainable Urban Transportation Study (SUTS) through the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MOPI) which is aimed at providing specific recommendations and policy options to allocate road space more efficiently and improve mobility in and around the city? Given Minister Harmon’s recent statement regarding government’s preference of non-involvement in the operations of the M&CC, one cannot help but be perplexed as to why the GOG and M&CC are not coordinating on this most important initiative.

M&CC’s actions make it clear that no reasoned approach was applied to introducing parking meters in the city of Georgetown. Rather, it seems to be the underhanded dealings that took place that are driving the process. Parking meter systems must be implemented as part of a comprehensive transportation system that provides garage parking facilities and an efficient public transportation service. Until this is done under a transparent process then continued public opposition to the implementation of parking meters is inevitable and citizens must show the M&CC that they are but servants of the people and will not be allowed to run the city as if it is their personal property.

It is very obvious that the majority of the councillors are not working for the people of Georgetown who elected them. MAPM therefore calls on the Government of Guyana and specifically the Minister of Communities to put an end to this travesty that only serves to further burden Guyanese. Please, give the citizens the good life they voted for.

MAPM also calls on the citizens to not be fooled by the revised rates which are nothing but a façade as the bylaws make way for the rates to be reviewed in six months. A renegotiated illegal contract is still an illegal contract. The time is now to stand up and fight back. Join us as at our weekly protests every Thursday from 12 noon to 1 pm in front of City Hall. This corrupt contract must not be allowed to resume.

Yours faithfully,

Luana Falconer

For Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM)

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