Non-operational pumps, closed sluices in Georgetown – malfeasance in public office

Heavy rainfall is not the fault of the Mayor of Georgetown, but idle pumps and closed sluices are totally his fault. Heavy rainfall would almost always lead to a certain amount of flooding in Georgetown. That several of the seven Georgetown pumps and the five sluices are idle and closed as the city floods is unconscionable, and the Mayor cannot excuse himself. In the present flooding situation in Georgetown, unconscionable underutilisation of city pumps and sluices is criminal.
Given the damages, the inconvenience and discomfort of floods, and the health risks, the Mayor and City Council are guilty of malfeasance in public office for not ensuring pumps and sluices are operational at 100% capacity. That those sluices remain closed and pumps are idle is more than incompetence; it is egregious mismanagement, deliberate sabotaging of the city’s capacity to drain water out of the city.
The drainage system in Georgetown is the total responsibility of the Mayor and City Council. No bones about it, the Mayor and City Council’s management of drainage in Georgetown has been contaminated with a hefty portion of political strategising as part of an overall political calculation. Those in charge of the city calculate that people would blame the President and his Government for the flooding woes of Georgetown. But the management of the city’s drainage is one of the many responsibilities of the Mayor and City Council.
They collect taxes, they are supposed to ensure the city is kept clean, that the city’s streets are in good condition, that the drainage system is working optimally, to prevent flooding. As part of managing the drainage system, the Mayor and City Council must keep drains and canals clean. They must also ensure that pumps are always in working condition, and, during heavy rainfall events, these pumps are put into operation, and sluice doors are operated (opened and closed) as necessary.
Last Saturday, in response to the flooding in Georgetown, Ministers Juan Edghill and Zulfikar Mustapha bemoaned the fact that city pumps were idle and city sluices were closed when they should have been opened. The Ministers claimed that underutilisation of the pumps and sluices was politically motivated.
The Mayor immediately responded on Sunday that the Ministers were politicising the floods, and that the pumps and the sluices were at maximal utilisation. Essentially, the Ministers were alleging that the Mayor and City Council were either deliberately underutilising the pumps and sluices in a politically perverted way, or their incompetence led to the underutilisation of the pumps and sluices. On the other hand, the Mayor denied that the pumps and sluices were being underutilised, thereby claiming the Ministers were engaged in spreading fake stories. Who was being truthful?
On Monday night, the President took a team for an unannounced visit to sluices and pumps in the city. At least two pumps were not in operation. At one site, the pump operator was asleep, and, when awakened, claimed there is no light for him to see and put on the pump. At least one other pump was being put into operation only when the President arrived. Two sluices were closed, when they should have been opened. Basically, the President proved that pumps and sluices that are required for the rapid movement of water out of city drains and streets and people’s yards were not being operated in an optimal way. The President confirmed what Ministers Edghill and Mustapha alleged on Saturday. The President proved that when the Mayor claimed all pumps and sluices were operated maximally, he was misrepresenting the facts. Whether those pumps and sluices were deliberately underutilised or it was simply the Mayor and the City Council’s disinterest, the end result is the same – sustained flooding. Both are egregious, both are malfeasance in public office.
The Mayor insists that flooding in the City cannot be attributed to underutilisation of city pumps and sluices because there was flooding in other places in Guyana. But none of these places benefits from such extensive sluice capacity, or from seven pump stations. There is no excuse for city pumps being silent when there is need to pump water out of the city. There is no excuse for leaving sluice doors closed.
Such malfeasance is not new, and is not restricted to this Mayor. For decades, the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown have been controlled by a single political party, the PNC. They are the ones collecting hefty taxes from people. In addition, they collect the largest local government subvention given by Central Government.
Many of their services, such as health, are directly funded by Government. But if there is consistency from one Mayor and City Council to another in Georgetown, during times when the PPP controls Central Government, it is that they have never optimally operated pumps and sluices.
As Minister of Agriculture during the last PPP Government, 2011 to 2015, in all heavy rainfall events, I know most of the pumps were inoperable and sluices could not be opened. I need little convincing that the Mayor and City Council are using pumps and sluices as a political weapon. It is ugly, it is stupid.