First, I commend the action taken by Central Government to suspend the By-laws of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to make the contract that the M&CC has with Smart City Solutions ineffective for the next three months. For all those reasons which have been adumbrated in the press and which have been advanced by all sectors of the society, I too strongly believe that the Parking Meter Contract must be scrapped. I am of the view that the contract was prematurely entered without the prior consent or authority of Council. The Town Clerk, gets his authority from the Council. This authority derives from an affirmative motion passed by the Council at a meeting. The Town Clerk has said that he was so given – I contest that assertion.
The current Council of the M&CC came into being on April 1, 2016. The contract was signed on May 13, 2016, just under six weeks after the Council was constituted. I have spoken to Councillors who have said to me that they never saw a motion to give the Town Clerk such power prior to the signing of the contract. In fact, the Deputy Mayor, himself the Chairman of the Legal and Contract Committee of the Council, said he never saw the contract or heard about it prior to its signing.
Clearly, the Town Clerk must have signed the contract based on an authority of the pre-April 1, 2016 Council. If this is so then that authority would have lapsed with the dissolution of the Council prior to the 2016 Local Government elections. Hence the contract with Smart City Solutions would be an illegal and/or unauthorised contract.
The principle that motions and decision lapse, if not executed prior to the dissolution of the body is well entrenched. For example, bills and motions passed by the National Assembly, if not assented by His Excellency nor executed by the Executive, lapse and have to be brought back when a new Assembly is elected. All the work done by parliamentary committees, if not concluded; reported to the Assembly, and assented to, must be reintroduced whenever a new Parliament is constituted. Signing a contract without the prior authority of the Council and having that unauthorised contract subsequently baptised still does not make the contract legal. As Attorney General, Basil Williams would say, ‘ab initio’ – the contract is illegal and you cannot subsequently make legal that which you never had the power to contract in the first place. You must seek the authority or given the authority as a priori.
Hence, I am of the view that the contract is illegal and every part of the process has to be investigated, how the Town Council came to have the authority to sign a contract on behalf of the current Council.