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Govt foot-dragging on establishing Local Govt Commission

by Derwayne Wills

Close to one year after a position that the Local Government Commission will be readied by local government elections, held last March, Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan is saying he is “not in a position to report anything new.”

Meanwhile, the political opposition has named former Town Clerk Carol Sooba; and former Local Government Ministers Norman Whittaker, and Clinton Collymore.

The political opposition is expected to name three nominees to the local government commission. Three nominees will come from the President, and the Minister of Communities, who has responsibility for the local government system, will name one nominee.

“There is nothing new at this stage to report regarding operationalizing. It remains as when last the matter was ventilated,” Bulkan told Demerara Waves Online.

Asked whether government has contemplated its four representatives, Minister Bulkan responded in the negative saying those representatives are under consideration.

“The government has its nominees, and they would be dealt with by Cabinet soon,” Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman told the press corps at a post-cabinet press briefing last July.

Trotman’s statement followed that of President David Granger who had said on his weekly Public Interest programme that he expects the Local Government Commission to be set up at the end of the year.

The President had said he hoped the Commission could be included in the estimates for the annual budget expected to be presented in December, 2016.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan is expected to present this country’s budget at the end of this month.

According to the Local Government Commission Act 2012, which allowed for the Commission to take effect, the Commission has the power to monitor and review the performance and implementation of the policies of all Local Government Organs (LGO).

This includes taxation and protection of the environment. It will also monitor, evaluate and make recommendations on policies, procedures and practices of all organs in order to promote effective local governance.

The Commission further has the power to investigate any matter under its purview and propose remedial action to the Minister, whenever or wherever necessary; to monitor and review all existing and proposed legislation, policies and measures relating to local government organs.

Guyana has 72 local government organs. These are separated into 65 neighbourhood democratic councils, and seven municipalities.

The commission is expected to report to the minister on the need for any legislative amendment, examine and propose ways of enhancing the capacity of LGOs, and hear appeals brought by employees dismissed by any LGO.

The establishment of the Commission was identified as part of the Local Government Reform process, where the vision was that “we should de-politicise the functioning and the workings of the local government system,” Minister Bulkan said last year.

He said in 2015 creating an autonomous constitutional body takes politics out of the day-to-day oversight and management of the working of the LGOs.