Parking meters: AFC flip flops, calls for project’s suspension amid mounting pressure

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…slams M&CC for overreaching authority

Despite refusing to support the Parliamentary Opposition when it brought a motion to debate the contentious Parking Meter Project in the National Assembly, the Alliance For Change (AFC) arm of the coalition Government has now bowed to pressure and has come out criticising the initiative.

 A Parking Meter in Georgetown
A Parking Meter in Georgetown

In a statement to the media on Tuesday, the AFC expressed concerns over the Georgetown Municipality overreaching its authority on a number of matters, including taxation arrangements, traffic arrangements and road ownership.

The political party argued that the current arrangements of the parking meter project do not appear to be in the best interest of the public and therefore called on the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to suspend its implementation.

The AFC said the suspension period should be used by the authorities to reconsider the pertinent aspects of the Finance Ministry’s review of the project and seek a second independent review of its contract with Smart City Solutions Inc (SCSI).

“The AFC is of the view that the current arrangements do not appear to be in the best interest of the people of the city. The party therefore registers its serious concern with regard to the handling of this project from its inception to its current stage, but specifically in terms of the lack of sufficient prior public consultation; the absence of transparency and of a competitive bidding process; the seeming lack of proper planning with regard to exemptions and the pricing and penalty structures,” the party expressed in its statement.

Further, the AFC said it views “with alarm” this development, as there appears to be an apparent “exclusivity and monopolisation of paid metered parking in the city”.

In spite of these assertions, the AFC contended that it is “neither supportive nor against” the implementation of paid parking in Georgetown.

The party also said it recognises the autonomy of the M&CC as the duly elected representatives of the Georgetown Municipality to regularise parking and to raise revenue.

Motion

In an invited comment, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament (MP) Irfaan Ali told Guyana Times that he called out the AFC over its hypocrisy as it did not support the parking meter motion which was tabled in the National Assembly.

PPP MP Irfaan Ali

The motion had called for a debate on the transparency of the project, method of procurement involved, terms and conditions of the contract, and the overall lack of consultancy with stakeholders.

Ali, who had tabled the motion, contended that the AFC cannot claim to be an innocent party, nor can it divorce itself from the collective decision by its Government when the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) aligned Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan signed the By-laws for the project to be implemented.

“The Government, of which the AFC is a part, has the ability and power to suspend the project as the very Government has the majority of Councillors on the City Council,” the politician argued.

Ali also rapped the AFC for making this issue a political football, highlighting that the execution of this project has had devastating impacts on the business community and the pockets of the people.

He also noted that notwithstanding the many appeals from the public and the parliamentary Opposition for an urgent intervention, the Government, of which the AFC is a part, never budged in allowing a constructive re-evaluation of the “glaringly biased and detrimental” project.

To this end, Ali contended that the AFC must answer why it refused to support his motion, which was presented to the National Assembly if it truly is concerned.

Protests

Marked as a unique moment in Guyana’s history, a mass protest by disgruntled taxpayers was conducted on Friday last against the parking meter project. A second protest against the initiative is slated for Thursday and it is expected to attract a much larger crowd.

Many have already complained of the injustices meted out against them from employees of the parking meter company.

For instance, some have complained of parking meter officials clamping their vehicles before their time has expired and that 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) is still being charged, even as the new tax regime reduced it by two per cent.

One of the glaring aspects of the contract is that if it is cancelled, City Hall will be forced to pay SCSI for 49 years.

Additionally, the By-laws include draconian measures such as in an area of both metered parking and unmetered parking, a driver is banned from parking in the unmetered zone and a violation can result in a short prison sentence.

It also stipulates that the city wardens will not be liable to any damages to vehicles during the course of clamping or towing.

Moreover, it was discovered that consumers are losing huge monies with the structure of the parking meter cards.

The prices for the cards vary from $570 to $11,400. The rate for parking is $50 for 15 minutes plus VAT – taking the total to GYD$58 for 15 minutes or $232 per hour.

If any of the cards are used up to its limit, there is a non-transferable balance on the cards.

For example, a $580 card gives a consumer a maximum parking time of two hours. The balance on the card after paying for two hours is $36. This balance is therefore wasted as it cannot purchase the minimum parking time, nor can it be transferred. The same applies to all values of cards.

Several professionals have contended that the current implementation of the project is unlawful since the By-laws governing its operations are still under the review of the Attorney General and are yet to be approved by Cabinet and gazetted.

A team of lawyers have already signalled their intention to challenge the project in the courts on the basis of it being unlawful. (Guyana Times)

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