A wall of silence remains in place at City Hall, as the contract signed between the City and Smart City Solutions Incorporated (SCSI), remains a closely guarded secret, but yet a proposal for amendments to the contract was presented to members of the Council.
According to People’s Progressive Party (PPP) representative on the City Council, Bishram Kuppen, ascertaining how much Smart City Solutions would cost the city of Georgetown due to the ‘terror clause’ was difficult. He noted that the full contract with the terms and conditions was never brought to the Council for review.
Kuppen stated that what in fact occurs is that the contract is kept secluded and Councillors are sometimes given pertinent points from within the contract. This, in effect, negates the Council’s role as a watchdog.
“The information we have relating to the contract comes from the Attorney General’s Office. But in terms of the actual monetary value, this will depend on the claims made by Smart City Solutions about what were their investments so far.”
“That number has not been made public. So if the contract is cancelled, then it would depend on what they state their initial investment was at that point. They will have to say what their investment was so far, because we are not privy to that kind of information.”
According to Kuppen, if the contact was indeed to be cancelled, then the city would have to pay for the balance of the term of the contract. This, he noted, would also be collated with the money that SCSI had invested so far.
Asked whether the Council has been made privy to the contract thus far, Kuppen emphasised that this has not been done. The Councillor stated that while the Mayor and the Town Clerk may have stated that the contract is available for review, what they mean is that Councillors can go to the ‘secret’ office and view the contract.
“We’re an elected Council; we shouldn’t have to go to a secret office to view the contract. The contract has to be brought to the full Council for review and that has never been done. At no point in time has the contract been brought to the Council for review. They’re simply giving you points. And then eventually they brought an amendment which was not presented with the contract itself.”
“Now does this make sense? You’re bringing an amendment to the Council to look at, but they have not seen the contract that they are about to amend. Now the amendments, we are not sure if they will end up in the amended contract. Because I’m seeing they are giving conflicting reports…”
When initial concerns had been raised about the contract last year, the Legal Affairs and Finance Ministries had undertaken a review of the contract. While both reviews had been damning about the contract, the Attorney General’s chambers had highlighted the existence of a “terror clause”.
Under the heading, “Characteristics of the Agreement” of the Ministry’s review, the memorandum had noted that the “concession agreement is one of unequal bargaining strength.”
“Most of the terms are overwhelmingly in favour of Smart City Solutions Inc with Article 14 on Termination being in terrorem of the City,” it stated.
The review had gone on to note that under that article, if the City unilaterally terminated the agreement, it would be bound to “pay the concessionaire a lump sum payment equivalent to the total direct and indirect, hard and soft cost cumulative gross investment of the concessionaire in the project.
In addition, it had also stipulated payment of an “amount equal to 25 per cent of the direct and indirect hard and soft cost cumulative gross investment of the concessionaire in the project; multiplied by the number of years (or fraction) remaining under the term… the reasonable out-of-pocket and documented costs and expenses incurred by the concessionaire as a direct result of such termination.”
After multiple protests against the parking meters, Government announced on Friday that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) would be suspending all punitive actions it had been taking against motorists for the past two weeks. This, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had announced, was to facilitate wider dialogue. (Guyana Times)