Laws governing parking meters still awaiting AG’s review, Cabinet approval – Harmon

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SCS representative during a demonstration

In spite of Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan already signing off on the by-laws governing the controversial operation of the parking meter system implemented throughout Georgetown, Attorney General Basil Williams is currently reviewing the documents before they are approved for gazetting.

This was disclosed by State Minister, Joseph Harmon on Thursday at the post-Cabinet press briefing.

State Minister Joseph Harmon

According to Harmon, “in as much as it is signed off by Minister of Communities, (the by-laws) still have to go through the process of the Attorney General vetting it and checking to ensure that it is consistent with the laws of Guyana and that the rules, which require certain levels of fairness, are all embedded in those bylaws.”

He explained that once the vetting process is completed, the by-laws would then be presented to Cabinet for its final approval before they are advertised in the official gazette.

“So, we have to ensure that things are very tight where the by-laws are concerned and they’ve actually been sent to the AG for him to exercise that scrutiny,” the Minister of State posited.

Two days prior to last week’s roll-out of the parking meter project, Minister Bulkan signed off on the by-laws after they were submitted last minute by the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC).

It had previously been reported that because of the time and location where the documents were received, the Minister could not give his authorisation until legal experts had perused them. Hence, paid parking did not commence as scheduled on January 23.

However, amid concerns that he had rushed through the by-laws without any proper scrutiny before signing off on them, Minister Bulkan had stated that the by-laws were reviewed by the Attorney General before they were signed off on. But Harmon could not confirm whether this was done. He noted that this would be known when the Attorney General submits his report to Cabinet.

In this vein, the State Minister was asked whether it was appropriate for the Communities Minister to sign off before Cabinet approved the by-laws. In his response, he asserted that the City Council was authorised to implement the project regardless, under the rules and regulations of the Council.

According to Harmon, these by-laws are basically for gazetting. Moreover, he outlined that these by-laws would seek to address certain categories of exemptions.

“There are certain agencies like emergency vehicles, vehicles of the State and diplomatic vehicles – there will have to be some arrangement (for exemption). All of these arrangements, I don’t believe, are fully in place under the current arrangements and, therefore, they need to have by-laws to regulate how that functions,” the State Minister posited.

On the other hand, with regard to concerns raised by organisations such as the Brickdam Cathedral, which has been recently demarcated as a parking zone, Harmon posited that the affected groups should approach the City Council and the company operating the parking meter system – Smart City Solutions – for exemption status as was done by the Guyana Teachers’ Union in relation to parking in front of schools.

The parking meter project, since its initial announcement, was criticised by stakeholders. However, the M&CC has maintained that it was necessary in order to bring in revenue for the cash-strapped municipality.

Smart City Solutions had given a grace period from the beginning of the year until January 23 when persons were expected to begin paying for parking throughout the city. Nevertheless, the introduction of paid parking last week received a cold welcome as drivers played it safe and avoided using spaces demarcated for parking meters.

While this trend continued throughout most of the first week, the first day of paid parking saw at locations such as Republic Bank and Muneshwars on Water Street, in addition to Hand-in-Hand and the Bank of Guyana on the Avenue of the Republic, parking meters cut lonely figures. The usually congested parking areas of these enterprises were conspicuously empty.

Persons refusing to pay for parking, which is done by using meter cards purchased from identified retailers, will have their vehicles clamped by officers from the SCS and City Council. They will also be made to pay an $8000 fine to have that clamp removed. However, this payment will have to be made within two hours of the vehicle being clamped; otherwise, it will be towed to a SCS compound.

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