In response to recent statements by the Mayor of Georgetown about the Central Government withholding resources from the municipality, President Irfaan Ali this afternoon said he will not allow the Government to be blamed for the mismanagement of the City by the Georgetown City Council.
City Mayor Ubraj Narine has complained that the Government has been withholding much needed financial resources from the City Council, leaving it in a cash strapped position.
But in a statement this afternoon, President Irfaan Ali fired back at the Mayor and said while his government is committed to the development and maintenance of the nation’s capital, the government will not be taking any blame for the city’s financial problems.
“This government cares tremendously about the City but we will not allow ourselves to be used as a scapegoat in the City not fulfilling its responsibility or mandate or the City converting everything into political opportunism or a political football”, the President said in his statement.
According to the President, the Government is committed to ensuring the full restoration of City Hall and has already budgeted the finances for that project, but he noted that the City Council needs to take on its responsibilities and fulfill them.
President Ali said “while the city is not fulfilling its responsibility in the maintenance of the environment and the cleaning of drainage, in the maintenence of infrastructure, the Central Government has embarked on a massive programme to clean the City and to clean the roadways, to establish roadabouts, to maintain roadways, to maintain drainage and we have invested in pumps to ensure as far as possible we improve the draining situation to prevent flooding. These are necessary investments because as a Government the city reflects who we are as a country too”.
The President said the mismanagement of the City has been an issue for several years and that problem cannot be passed over to the Government.
With a number of communities faced with a piling up of the garbage and blocked drains and unkempt parapets, the President said his government has started to engage communities to get the work done themselves and the Government will assist and give contracts to those communities.
“We are engaging the communities to get community workers to clean up various wards in the City”, the President said, while adding that every time the City Council fails at its job, the burden is passed on to the Government.
“Central government has a responsibility to ensure that resources are spent for what they are budgeted for and to ensure that there is accountability and transparency in the way we spend resources”, President Ali said.
President Ali said the City Council has failed over the years to present audited financial statements in keeping with the law. He said the last audited statements were presented in 2004.
Ali said the Georgetown City Council has not been transparent and has not been accountable with its finances over the years, even as additional resources were transferred to the City’s coffers.
“There must come a time when things will come to a head and these things have to be fixed and we cannot continue this level of mismanagement. As President and as a Government, we want nothing short of an excellent relationship with the City, but that relationship must not be one where the City Council blames us for its mismanagement”, he said.
President Ali also accused the City Council of failing to even meet its obligations to current and past City workers.
He said various audits including the most recent ones have found instances of money being deducted from the salaries of workers but not paid over to the National Insurance Scheme and the Guyana Revenue Authority.
He called on the Mayor and his Council to fix those issues rather to cast blame at his government.
Two months ago, President Ali met with the Mayor and his Deputy and made a commitment that the Government would be making an advance payment of taxes to City Hall to the tune of $100M.
The money is still to be paid over and the City Mayor has also complained that the Government has not released the full subvention for the municipality. Mayor Narine has also accused the Government of locking the Council out of its plans to carry out maintenance and other works in Georgetown.