By Ramona Luthi
In face of strong condemnation from the Alliance For Change’s (AFC) political party about the implementation of the controversial parking meter project in the city, Mayor Patricia Chase Green has signalled a go-ahead for the project.
Chase Green told Guyana Times on Tuesday that though democratic power is given to everyone, and members of the AFC are allowed to oppose the contracts, their disagreement holds no merit.
AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, had told the media that the party does not plan on giving up on its quest to have the contentious parking meter contract rescinded.
Chase Green expressed frustration towards the stance taken by the AFC representatives, explaining that “the Council had difficulties with the previous Administration politically inferring with the Council’s work and now here it is, we’re having political interference. I don’t know for what reason.”
The AFC’s opposition to the contract is evidence that the City Council is divided, since the party is a key partner in the coalition Government which won the majority of the seats on the Council.
And although the AFC has openly disagreed with the contract, Attorney General Basil Williams and Finance Minister Winston Jordan have both given the green light.
“There are recommendations from the Attorney General and the Ministry of Finance, of which I said, a meeting will be called and they will discuss it, and we will be moving forward,” Chase Greene said.
On the other hand, she said that the decision for the installation of the parking meters along the streets of Georgetown was the Mayor and City Council’s (M&CC) decision to make, and it was already agreed upon, indicating that the view of the AFC does not matter at this point.
“They have a right to agree and not to agree. What I have is a Council’s decision, of which I have to carry through. Every member has a right to agree or not to agree, but the Council has the decision before it,” she said.
The AFC’s representatives on the Council, along with several other city Councillors, including the People’s Progressive Party’s Bishram Kuppen, have rejected the contract which they say is shrouded in secrecy.
In fact, Kuppen along with several others, including transparency advocates have called for the scrapping of the contract and for there to be an open public tender of the project. But the Government has reassured stakeholders that it has found nothing illegal in the contract which was signed with Smart City Solutions Inc.
However the Finance Ministry which was also tasked with reviewing the contract and providing Cabinet with a report, had outlined with respect to the financial implications of the contract that “Government procurement practices may have been violated, in that a tender was not advertised and bids reviewed for acceptance based on certain criteria, and as such, justifies a revoking of the contract by Government and the re-tendering.”
According to the report from the Finance Ministry, “there are grounds for the contract to be withdrawn and the related damages assessed and paid subject to M&CC producing a feasibility study that provides the Government a clear picture of the demand analysis, financial analysis, socio-economic cost benefit analysis, risk analysis, technological alternatives and production plan, human resources, location plan and implementation.”
The Ministry’s report also unearthed that the concessions granted under the contract were monopolistic in nature since it blocked any form of local competition for the duration of the 49 years of the contract life.
Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI) is of the opinion that the deal is shrouded in unaccountability and ambiguity.
“TIGI is of the view that the handling of the parking meter project by the Georgetown municipality and its response to relevant queries exhibit a dearth of democratic principles and disdain for citizens that would lead to a feeling of exclusion, and alienation from the decision-making process. These failures serve as a strong contradiction to the purpose of local government,” TIGI President Troy Thomas had said in recent statement.
He said there was no open tendering for the project and there was “handpicking” of a contractor and Councillors to conduct due diligence in Mexico. “This was perhaps necessary as it was a fool’s errand from the onset against the backdrop of an already signed contract, which positioned it in the interest of the Mayor to find the firm suitable or even exceeding the requirements,” he added.
Thomas stated that there ought to be transparency and accountability in the operations of local government and the views of the people must be respected. He contended that the project being allowed to continue in its current state despite a legal basis for enacting a new and transparent process was a telling blow to “transparency, accountability and good governance”.
Private Sector Commission Chairman Eddie Boyer had also stated that if the parking meter contract was not transparent, it should be disregarded.