Opposition’s motion to remove autonomy of Local Govt Commission voted down

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

The government on Thursday voted down Opposition-proposed amendments to the Local Government Commission Act to remove its autonomy in the hiring of staff for local authorities.

The proposals were submitted by Opposition Member of Parliament Ganesh Mahipaul.

The Local Government Commission (LGC) is a constitutional and regulatory agency empowered to deal with all matters relating to the regulation and staffing of Local Government Organs including employment and dismissal of staff as well as with dispute resolution.

Mahipaul on Thursday requested leave of the National Assembly to table the Local Government Commission (Amendment) Bill 2023.

In his address to the House, he noted that the current construct of the Act has created a dissonance with Article 75 of the Guyana Constitution where local democratic organs are empowered to make decisions that are binding upon their agencies, institutions, communities, and citizens.

As a result, Mahipaul had suggested that the Act be amended to instruct the Commission to consult with the local authorities before employing staff.

He argued that “by granting the Local Government Commission unilateral authority to employ staff members for Municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) without any input from the elected councils of these local organs, it undermines the very essence of local democracy. This disconnect has led to instances where individuals employed by the Commission act against the elected councils, thereby eroding the autonomy and authority of these local bodies.”

The Opposition MP added that by incorporating the input of elected councils into staffing decisions, there will be greater collaboration and accountability in local governance.

However, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall highlighted that the LGC can consult with the local authorities “as it deems fit”, according to the law.

Nothing is stopping the Commission from consulting, he said, adding that if it becomes an obligation to consult, then this will be in contravention with the Constitution.

“In so far as this Bill seeks to circumscribe the powers of the commission – as benevolent and benign as it seems to be – once it seeks to circumscribe that power that the commission has in its decision making, whether to require it to consult as a matter of law or to act on recommendation on some external and extrinsic agency, that will run afoul of Article 78 of the Constitution that invests in the local government commission, the power to make decisions as it sees fit,” he explained to the National Assembly.

“What you were comfortable with in government, you must be comfortable with in Opposition,” he added.

Nandlall also reminded the House that this Act was passed in 2013, and had to have received support from the then majority Opposition.

Additionally, the AG underscored that Section Three of the current Act explicitly agrees with the Constitution, stating that in the Local Government Commission’s functions, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any authority.