(The following COMMENTARY on the controversial Parking Meter contract was written by Dr. Leslie Ramsammy)
Given the expose, the Parking Meter Contract must be revoked, a bi-partisan Commission of Inquiry instituted immediately and, based on its findings, relevant charges instituted. The Mayor and others must resign with immediate effect and the Town Clerk fired. APNU+AFC must recognize that this is not business as usual and it is confronting not its political adversary – the PPP – but confronting the PEOPLE of Guyana.
APNU+AFC must understand that its instruction to suspend fines and clamping and to reduce hourly parking rates are weak, inadequate and woefully inappropriate responses to an overt corrupt and criminal deal. Immediate contract revocation and criminal investigation must be the starting point.
There is an overt strategy to misrepresent and obfuscate the issue. Granger and his sycophants want people to believe the national outrage is driven only by the high and unaffordable parking rates and the draconian fines and punishments, including wheel clamping. Frighteningly troubling, Granger and APNU+AFC’s belated action instructing the Mayor and the City Council (M&CC) and Smart City Solutions to suspend fines and clamping and reduce parking rates and, shockingly, to now start consultations, only increase their own shameful complicity in this scandal.
While the parking rates and punishments are important factors in the national outrage, people were even more infuriated by the non-accountability and secrecy of the deal, non-compliance with national procurement requirements, the 50 to 100 years monopoly given to the company, the 80% share going to Smart City Solutions, the agreement to refund all expenses and claims of losses by Smart City Solutions and 25% of the projected revenue for each year of the contract (49 years) should the contract be terminated, the suspicion that people were bribed and the recent scurrilous remarks of Cush. While it is true that the initial complains came from political players like the PPP and Sherod Duncan in his capacity as the Deputy Mayor and Bisram Kuppen as a City Councilor, the outrage took on a people’s movement as the rates actually kicked in earlier in January.
This is not just a case of a bad deal, one where the Mayor and City Council were out-negotiated and it is not a simple case of bad judgment. This was a deal concocted from within the belly of corruption from the start. Cush used his connection in APNU to bring in Smart City Solutions and there is suspicion that “bigly” benefits flowed to many. The Parking Meter Contract is a crime against the State and the Guyanese people. Guyana is not new to corrupt deals, but the Parking Meter Deal ranks high as one of the most corrupt deals ever in our history. The corrupt “House for a Medical Warehouse” fiasco early last year pales in comparison to the stench the Parking Meter Contract oozes.
No amount of political bias is enough to hide the odious stench that pours out of it. APNU+AFC and the M&CC expected initially that the public will view the objections as another false allegation made by the PPP to score political points. Like all the other charges of corruption, such as the medical warehouse scandal, APNU+AFC and its sycophant M&CC thought it would soon dissipate and people will forget. They had hoped that the people will settle down and forget the sandal if APNU+AFC invokes the PPP bogey man spreading false information.
But there is something like a bridge too far. As the objection by the PPP, Sherod Duncan, Councilor Kuppen and the Private Sector intensified, Granger and APNU+AFC agreed to have a Cabinet review of the contract, but maintained that the contract will stay in place because APNU+AFC will not interfere with the business of the M&CC. When the Minister of Communities and APNU+AFC allowed the Parking Meters to take effect in January, they did so with the full knowledge of the circumstances and details of the contract, after all the contract had a cabinet review. When APNU+AFC stood by and allowed the implementation of parking meters they had the by-laws and either ignored or approved it.
They had not considered the national outrage once the parking meters and the high rates kicked in. Ordinary Guyanese came out, not in partisan political protest, but resisting the authoritarian imposition of the M&CC with Smart City Solutions, with the total complicity of Granger and APNU+AFC.
Granger dubs the fiasco as stupidity on the part of the M&CC. The AFC in a desperate effort to extricate itself now wants people to accept that Duncan was speaking for them. But none of them in the AFC supported Duncan and none of them questioned the deal in public, until now. Did anyone of them raised any objection at Cabinet? It is self-serving sanctimonious beating of the chest now to pretend innocence and outrage. Trotman is on record saying that APNU+AFC will not interfere in the contract arrangement between Smart City Solutions and M&CC. Ramjattan and Nagamootoo treated the allegation of corruption as another example of PPP crying wolf.
As long as the allegation pertained to no advertisement, no tender etc. APNU+AFC and the M&CC expected that people would dismiss the whole thing as another false PPP allegation. They had not anticipated that people would express their rage so overtly, so vociferously, so determined. Freedom is a contagious thing and the Burnham/PNC authoritarianism cannot survive when people feel oppressed. The Parking Meter Sandal will not go away because APNU+AFC bends a little. They have to repudiate the Parking Meter Contract, nothing less. They have to charge people, nothing less.