Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine on Thursday refused to take the blame for the lackadaisical approach towards the management of the city’s pump stations, sluices, and kokers – telling government ministers that he is not responsible for supervising the technical workers of the City Council.
The Georgetown Mayor along with other city officials were invited to a meeting with the Ministers of Agriculture, Local Government, and Public Works to discuss how to address the flashfloods occurring in the city during the heavy downpours.
This is especially in light of the fact that several ministers as well as President Dr Irfaan Ali himself made checks at the various pump stations and kokers and found that the operators were neglecting their posts and duties – resulting in the unnecessary flooding of the city.
The media was invited to cover the event which occurred at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Boardroom but reporters and cameramen were not allowed to be present during the actual meeting.
Following the more than hour long discussion, the city officials left and the government ministers spoke to reporters what had transpired.
During the media engagement, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha said the responses provided by the Mayor were “unacceptable”.
According to Mustapha, Mayor Narine indicated that the technical officers attached to the M&CC are responsible for monitoring the pumps and sluices.
“The Mayor basically said if the technical people cannot supervise then he cannot do much about that. I find that very strange because the responsibility stops at the Mayor’s desk and he has to ensure that the town and these critical structures are manned properly and that all systems are in place,” Minister Mustapha posited.
“This is our capital city and as a government, we’ve been making the resources available to the City Council in terms of getting the drainage and irrigation system…during the latter part of 2020, we would’ve increased the drainage capacity of Georgetown by installing three additional pumps. Georgetown now has twelve pumps installed. We also have approximately 10 sluices,” he added.
Govt to assume supervision
The Agriculture Minister said a number of issues were raised with the city officials, particularly the Mayor but he was unable to respond with any useful information or solution.
“I don’t think we had a proper answer coming out from the City Council. That means that the Ministry of Agriculture, Local Government and Public Works will have to devise how they will monitor the system and get it to work although those operators both from the sluices and the pumps are employees of City Hall.
“The Mayor said that he doesn’t have to supervise those employees…that he has his administration, so I ask him the rhetorical question who supervises the administration? because if the administration is not delivering, he has to make sure the administration deliver,” Mustapha posited.
As a result, the Government Ministers said that a plan will be put in place to ensure the city’s drainage structures are managed effectively. Minister Mustapha emphasised that government cannot assume those responsibilities without due process being followed. He also said that the city’s drainage system is the responsibility of the Council and that government will be exploring all avenues to ensure that the Council is accountable and executes its responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall stated the Government has already invested close to $1B in drainage and irrigation in Georgetown over the past ten months. He also observed that there is now a lackluster approach to cleaning up the city.
“The Government has been doing the heavy lifting in Georgetown, we expected that the City Council would’ve engaged in the sustainable management of these facilities that we have put in place. A few years ago, the last government did some cleaning and it is obvious that City Hall [is now] refusing to do any maintenance. The alleyways that we have in Georgetown…we have tens of miles of alleyways and many of them are still clogged up.
“Only last December through the Ministry Local Governments and Public Works, we did a lot of cleaning in both North and South Georgetown. We are currently in with some collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture doing work in south Georgetown as well as Sophia, cleaning drains, canals and even alley ways, so it is flabbergasting that the Mayor comes here and throws his hands up and doesn’t want to take responsibility,” Dharamlall contended.
Refusing to face the media
Mayor Narine and other city officials have refused to face the media on issues relating to flooding in the city.
In fact, the Agriculture Minister noted that the intention was for both the ministerial delegation and the city officials to address the media jointly following the meeting but Mayor Narine and team opted to leave.
Additionally, this publication approached the Mayor for a comment on the issue but he refused to answer any questions.