Newly-appointed Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Nigel Dharamlall has claimed that there has been 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.
“Not a cent has been accounted for. Not a piece of documentation can be provided and that’s an outstanding issue which we would have to look at. We have had cases of gross incompetence and mismanagement which we will have to work to get fixed,” the new Minister lamented.
The restoration fund is one whereby members of the public are encouraged to donate monies towards the rehabilitation for the 19th-century building. At the time of the first study by the European Union several years ago, the project was pegged $400 million but to date, that amount has increased to over $1 billion.
Later, $65 million was also provided over one year ago for the construction of an administrative building but according to the new Minister, only a building design plan has been drafted.
This building was expected to host employees until the restoration exercise is completed. As it stands, the iconic City Hall structure has become an eyesore and is expected to crumble in the near future.
“The only thing that has been done in a year, despite $65 million being provided to City Hall, was a design review of the structure that ought to be built. I have no idea as yet but that information will have to be provided on whether City Hall has expended those resources on other things or whether they held it in escrow,” the new Minister revealed.
The Georgetown municipality has been cash-strapped for many years – mostly linked to lack of transparency and mismanagement of funds.
Dharamlall has included in his mandate, a quest to reshape the operations at City Hall so that Government’s intervention is no longer constantly needed.
He would have recently engaged Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine, where it was disclosed that the municipality is indeed cash-strapped.
“I think it is legendary that it has been mismanaged. In the next five years, I can assure every resident of Georgetown that we will ensure that City Hall pulls itself up and becomes transparent, accountable, efficient and sustainable in all of its management,” he affirmed.
The Minister added, “We have met with the Mayor and he has indicated very clearly to us that they are cash strapped. They are without resources. Their collection is still below par. I think most importantly; it’s the way things are managed.”
“We believe that with this new Government, we will work very closely to ensure that they are managed better, the subventions provided would have to be accounted for,” the Minister said