…Central Govt to do “heavy lifting” on projects – Local Govt Minister
The distrust engendered by the Georgetown Mayor and City Council’s (M&CC) lack of accountability has Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall making it clear the Government will not be giving them any money directly for capital projects.
The Minister made his position very clear during an interview on NCN television, when he was asked about the Government’s plans for the capital city. According to Dharamlall, the Government will be investing in modernising the city, while also retaining aspects of its historical value. What it will not be doing is putting that money directly in City Hall’s hands.
“The President met with City Hall, myself and other Ministers of Government met with them. And the greater plan for our country, Georgetown, is included in that plan. His Excellency’s position is that we have to build the physical infrastructure of Georgetown, as we’ll have to do with all other towns in our country. We have met so many times with City Hall, outlined our plans for infrastructural development. We will do the heavy lifting,” he said.
He made it pellucid that Central Government will not be giving City Hall any cash to spend on its own.
“We are not going to give City Hall money directly. Because they have not been very forthcoming with how they spend taxpayers’ monies. So, we are going to be doing a lot of the funding, while we agree on what projects will be done, the Government will be spending the resources directly with the concurrence of City Hall on the projects.”
Even as Central Government is forced to take an active role in the city, Minister Dharamlall noted that many of these things are the responsibility of the M&CC. This includes road construction and drainage. According to the Minister, it will be a while before they can overcome these hurdles.
“This is despite this being the responsibility of the city of Georgetown. The Ministry of Public Works has been heavily involved in road construction and likewise the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development in terms of other issues of the city,” Dharamlall said.
“The Ministry of Agriculture, through the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, they have been involved in practically all of the drainage infrastructure maintenance and even upgrades. Even the situation where we had the floods recently. The pumps were actually being supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture. Because we could not have the City Hall determine the management. Because they actually have no management system in place.”
Only last week questions were raised about the spending of taxpayers’ money when Mayor Ubraj Narine allegedly attempted to have City Hall pay for his trip to New York for an APNU/AFC-backed rally in Brooklyn.
Earlier this year, Central Government had given City Hall a lifeline by injecting an additional $30 million into the coffers of the Mayor and Councillors. This money is intended to support the construction of an administrative building for that entity, even as a tender is out for the rehabilitation of the main building.
At the time the cheque was handed over, Dharamlall had said that City Hall is still lagging behind in having its financial statements audited, and this is a serious concern for the current Administration. He reported that in the Auditor General’s Report, it is indicated that the local organ body has not been forthcoming with these documents.
After taking office last year, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) Government had launched an audit into City Hall, which had targeted both the financial and operational makeup of the municipality.
Calls for transparency come on the heels of reports last year that there was no accountability for the $300 million Restoration Fund which was contributed to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council for the restoration of the dilapidated City Hall Building. The structure seems to be falling apart, and some sections have already been labelled unsafe. (Guyana Times)