Ratchet City Council politics

The years 2011 and 2015 saw residents of Georgetown and core stakeholders demand a change in the political leadership and directorship of the Georgetown City Council.

This change was demanded in part because of the need to end mass corruption at the council which had reached unimaginable levels since the last council took office back in 1994.

The change was also lobbied for because citizens and the private sector had become weary of the poor levels of service they received from the council despite the fact that they paid their rates and taxes.

Also, support for a change in political culture of the council also increased over the past 20 years because of the lack of progress made in creating a more cohesive and modern capital that could stand on the pillars of social and economic justice, transparency and accountability.

It should be noted that whilst in opposition, the current A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change parties supported this hunger for change in the way business is done at the city council. They mounted a strong campaign against the PPP and in defence of the then Hamilton Green council as they explained that the council was handicapped because of continued ministerial interference, a lack and drought of resources from central Govt to the council and weak political and formative support from the PPP/C.

The coalition also turned City Hall into a battle field taking on the then Town Clerk Carol Sooba who was a Government appointee while undermining her efforts at straightening the council and exposing corruption there. Most times, Sooba was left emotionally wounded and frustrated because even though there were bright spots and several successes during her stint at City Council, the culture of incompetence, political mismanagement and corruption continued as it was now permanently part of the psyche of the council.

As history would have it. Sooba was forced out when the coalition secured Government and long overdue local Government elections were held. New faces and civil-political groups took council seats with a majority joining to the coalition.

Patricia Chase-Green, who served the old council, now became Mayor and Sherod Duncan was placed as Deputy Mayor as if to be a poster boy in order to pander to youths. Royston King, a crass coalition supporter got his lifelong dream and became Town Clerk.

Along with the other councillors, they delivered an unexpected brand of change. This change so far has proven to be ineffective management of the city’s resources, continued corruption, controversial policy positions and an increased polarisation of the Council’s work in favour of coalition businesses and supporters.

This is not the change residents of Georgetown demanded but nobody seems to care at the council or central Govt.

There are alarming reports of new instances of nepotism, corruption and cronyism at the council with large and small contracts being handed to business and political interests in the city in breach of the bylaws and tendering process.

There are reports of misuse of funds at the council by the Town Clerk and other officers in many instances but when the media seek clarifications on these matters, they are met with arrogance and resentment from office holders.

Also, the workers’ lives have not improved and their unions seem incapable of fighting for their rights. Nothing positive has happened at the council despite their efforts at cleaning select parts of the city and the reorganisation of the vendors at Stabroek and Merriman Mall.

In fact, the new council must account for the millions spent on its clean-up drive and other projects since it came to power. An audit that is forensic in nature would expose all of the financial shortcomings of the council and political misdemeanours thus far.

In order for real positive change to occur, the Town Clerk’s office must become de-politicised and obedient to the council. It cannot function as an extension of the APNU/AFC Government nor an arm of King’s personal monarchy.

Additionally, new councillors must have their say and must be allowed to pursue all contracts and agreements entered into in the past and future by the council. No more unnecessary trips abroad and demolition exercises must not take place without full council agreement.

The Central Government must heap criticism on the Council when it is out of place and when the council’s policies appear to be anti-poor, anti-modern and lacking imagination.

All of the hard fought for reforms to Local Government laws and the elections are meaningless unless the ratchet political culture at the Council changes.