City Hall does not consider internationalisation of food safety standards the exclusive responsibility of Central Gov’t

Dear Editor,

Please refer to the Stabroek News editorial of June 19, 2018, `Town Clerk’s food safety licence lament’ for us at City Hall, the management or administration of the citizenry’s affairs is never a cloistered virtue; we do not disdain helpful critical comments. The Stabroek News editorial is neither helpful nor accurate. It reminds us of a tale told by, a funny person, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

The editorial is inaccurate in both the suggestions that this municipality is (i) “incapable of delivering the services that go along with its licensing of eating houses”, and (ii) the Town Clerk’s lobby for the municipality to retain the licencing prerogative if allowed would “interfere with the passage of the Food Safety Bill”. It is an absurdity. How could this negative notion of interference by lobbying ever have any credibility when the very nature of the Select Committee process anticipates, facilitates and indeed encourages lobbying and representations even at that stage in the legislative process? It is not about some jaundiced notion of interference.  On the contrary, it is about stakeholders (like this City Council) having both a legal and moral right to have been consulted (during the drafting stage of the Food Safety Bill) on a matter of such importance, significance and revenue ramifications. Lobbying for us, at City Hall, is about the discharge of our duty to the citizenry of Georgetown to manage the city’s affairs in their best interest and if that requires lobbying for inclusion in the Food Safety Bill, measures that would be beneficial to the citizenry of this municipality, then so be it. We are resolute as we are entirely convinced in the rightness of that cause.

For us at this Georgetown municipality, we do not consider the internationalisation of food safety standards as the exclusive responsibility of the Central Government. Neither do we question the financial and human resources capacity of Central Government. But we argue the case for a shared responsibility between the Central Government and this municipality on this matter.

Where the Central Government leads; we at this municipality can, and will follow, if allowed to. And so even, if in the discharge of that duty “Mr. King finds himself railing more or less alone, against what he sees as a threat to his revenue base …” (an extract from the editorial) then I do so, with the satisfaction that an added justification is my endeavour (even if “alone”) to secure what is, already, a grossly inadequate, and demonstrably insufficient, very narrow revenue base, for this Council. The simple truth, which must not be trivialized (editorially), is that a Capital City cannot be efficiently and effectively administered and kept green, clean and healthy without its own revenue base. And whereas the Food Safety Authority (under the Food Safety Act) would be financed entirely out of the Consolidated Fund (as of right) as a budgetary matter; the City Council enjoys no such assurance of operating revenues. For us, it is a case of generate your operating revenues; or perish. So, surely, there is a compelling argument for us, here, at the Council to be entitled to those registration and licensing revenues in respect of eating houses and street selling in the Council Area. But what is the argument on the other side, in the editorial?

Nothing, but empty usual bashing of the Council’s administration. That is not helpful. The Stabroek News editor seems conveniently indifferent to the legal hurdles (such as injunctions, the recent burial ground pig rearing matter is a classic example, compliance with legal rules of natural justice such as affording even a flagrant defaulter/offender some hearing etc) which bedevils this Council in its management/administration of the Council’s affairs. Even as fairness does not permit an editor to approbate and reprobate, the editorial would rhetorically accuse use of “naked bullyism” when we seek to beautify and lend ambience and excellence to the Capital City by enforcing the By-laws against street vendors; and of administration failure when we act with statutory¾procedural propriety in serving “violation letters” against offenders.

Editor, we do not accept, and, in fact, reject outright the nuanced notion of the Stabroek News editorial that this municipality is somehow, institutionally incapable of internationalising the food safety standards as regards street selling on the Council’s streets (this being, inter alia, one of the objects of the Food Safety Bill). Using the subsidiary legislation–making powers, which we have under the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, it is entirely within our capacity to make such By-Laws as are necessary for the internationalisation of our standards. Nor, are we somehow inherently incapable of their implementation (as the Stabroek News editorial would seem to suggest).

Finally, just as with the politically orchestrated resistance (protests, injunctions and all) to our efforts to internationalize the method of vehicular use of Council’s streets by the introduction of parking meters, we, at City Hall, are under no illusion that criticisms of our lobbying efforts is nothing but naked political machinations. Such criticisms are useless.

Yours faithfully

Royston King

Town Clerk

City of Georgetown

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