“As at January 31, 2019 the staff of the Local Government Commission and its Commissioners have not been paid their salaries because the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities has either unilaterally decided or has been directed not to sign on to the Cheque to facilitate such payment”.
This is according to one of the Commissioners of the Local Government Commission, Norman Whittaker, who raised concerns with what he said was unauthorized interventions and directives by Government over its constitutionally enshrined autonomy.
“Whilst the Local Government Commission is rooted in the bowels of the Constitution of Guyana (Refer Article 78A of the Constitution); and is specifically provided for under the Local Government Commission Act No.18 of 2013; the Ministry of Communities vide its Minister and Permanent Secretary seem bent on promoting an insidious parallel administration aimed at interfering with the work of the Commission by way of unauthorized interventions and directives which not only interfere with the work of the Commission but also denies Commission staff the benefits to which they are entitled and which are provided for in the Commission Act and other subsidiary Legislation” said Whittaker.
Article 78 (a) of the Constitution of Guyana sets out that “Parliament shall establish a Local Government Commission, the composition and rules of which empower the Commission to deal with as it deems fit, all matters related to the regulation and staffing of local government organs and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs.”
The LGC Commissioner, in a statement, noted that Minister Ronald Bulkan and his Permanent Secretary continue to treat the Local Government Commission as a Subvention Agency and require, among other things, that the Commission writes that Ministry for releases to meet approved expenditures.
He noted that this is not the case and that the Commission has been rigidly following procedures set out under sections 22, 23, 24 of the Local Government Commission Act 2013 which allows the Commission to, inter alia, “(a) employ necessary staff and to determine their remuneration and other terms and Conditions of employment (b) determine its “own annual budget” for submission to the Minister of Finance and approval of the National Assembly.”
According to Whittaker, a former Government Minister on local governance, “It is our understanding that Constitutional Commissions like the Local Government Commission are required to function within their annual Budget approved in the National Assembly and subject to the same regulations as other Budget Agencies. This includes the independence to manage its affairs within the ambit of the Constitution and the Local Government Commission Act. In this regard also, we are aware and do appreciate the requirement of accountability to the National Assembly.”
Moreover, the Commissioner said that the “Permanent Secretary’s refusal to sign the Cheque to facilitate the payment of staff salaries of the Commission’s staff and its Commissioners for January 2019 must be a faux pas which we place in the public purview with the expectation that it be corrected by the Minister and his Permanent Secretary.”