City Hall appeals to Govt for funds to offset over $500M debt
…owes $100M to garbage contractors, $400M to NIS, $20M in retroactive salaries
The cash-strapped and mismanaged City Hall on Wednesday appealed to Government to bail it out as its monstrous debts are piling up.
Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine pleaded with Government to bail out the entity by allocating funds to the Council which is faced with over half of a billion dollars in debts that continue to climb.
Of this sum, $100 million is owed to garbage collection contractors, $400 million is owed to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and over $20 million in retroactive salaries is owed to staffers of the City Constabulary.
Narine reported that the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) was struggling to pay staffers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in it recording a 78 per cent decrease in revenue earnings. Speaking on the issue, Mayor Narine said: “Our revenue drop here is about 78 per cent. We are actually struggling to pay staff. Our salary and wages scale is $120 million per month. We owe NIS over $400 million that is since in 1993. I am dealing with that issue now.”
He continued, “COVID-19 has carried a tremendous impact on this Council that some things we cannot do. The plans that we had for this year as Mayor and Councillors we could not execute it, because the money is not there. The lil’ bit money you actually have is to pay staff and to do other works which are necessary.”
With respect to the over $20 million in retroactive salaries owed to the City Constabulary, the Mayor assured that he was trying his best to have the monies paid by December 31, 2020. According to him, there is much more as it relates to COVID-19 in the capital city. He said he sent several letters to Government asking for help.
Turning his attention to garbage collection and the $100 million owed to contractors, Mayor Narine informed, “The garbage collectors, the contract was up on the 5th of October 2020. I had to sit and negotiate with them again to extend it for three months until December 2020.”
Mayor Narine said he has now written to President Irfaan Ali as the Council continued to beg for a bailout. He added that a senior secretary at the Office of the President recently responded to his letter ,stating that the President has forwarded his letter to Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall and the Minister would respond on the President’s behalf.
The Mayor disclosed that the Council was carrying out a number of repairs works across the City and that the payment of outstanding rates and taxes owed by Government would assist the Council tremendously.
Earlier this month, Minister Dharamlall announced that Central Government would allocate $2 million to each municipality to ensure that town council staff, who have not been paid for months, received wages and salaries. In doing so, the Minister said that he was cognisant of the fact that municipalities had been unable to generate revenue as a result of the COVID-19 . However, Mayor Narine said that this was barely enough in light of the numerous financial woes the Council was facing.
Over the years, City Hall has come in for heavy criticism over the management of its finances and its wasteful spending which has left the Council cash-strapped.