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Parking meter project to be suspended for three months; faces revocation if problems aren’t fixed

The controversial parking meter project is to be suspended for three months to fix a number of the problems identified in the contract between Georgetown’s Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and Smart City Solutions (SCS), a senior government official confirmed late Tuesday night.

The official, who spoke with Demerara Waves Online News on strict condition of anonymity, said Cabinet has also agreed that if at the end of the three months City Hall and the investor do not iron out a number of the problems identified in the review by the Finance Ministry, “it (the contract) could very well be scrapped altogether.”

Cabinet has tasked Local Government Minister, Ronald Bulkan with asking City Hall to put a brake on the parking meter system until a review and consultations.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon is Thursday expected to announce the details of the suspension. SCS has earmarked US$10 million for the parking meter project and has agreed to give City Hall 20 percent of gross earnings. Latest figures show that due to the boycott of the parking meters, City Hall’s stake was equal to just over GYD$250,000 last month.

Demerara Waves Online News was told that cabinet members drawn from both the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) felt very strongly about the adverse political impact the parking meter project was having on the governing coalition

The decision by Cabinet on Tuesday to suspend the parking meter project came as weekly protest action by the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) continued into its 5th week, with signs of intensification.

The AFC on February 7, 2017 had called for the parking meter project to be suspended and reconsider pertinent aspects of the Finance Ministry’s review.

The AFC has said the the available documentation, suggests that the municipality may have overreached its authority on a number of matters including taxation arrangements, traffic arrangements and road ownership.  Concerns have also been raised about the monopolistic and exclusive enjoyment by SCS. The accord virtually guarantees SCS another 20 years after the current contract expires providing the company adequately performs its obligations and subject to the approval of the city “such approval not to be unreasonably withheld.”

The contract provides for SCS to initially install 2,500 meters and phase in more based on demand and public reactions. The agreement also allows SCS to secure lands to establish garage parking facilities and to eventually purchase those lands.

Transparency Institute of Guyana, Private Sector Commission and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce have also called for the contract to be scrapped, citing no public tender, lack of transparency among  all City Councillors about the contract, the adverse impact of the parking meters on businesses in the City and the exorbitant cost of metered parking.

City Hall has maintained that it badly needs the cash to help fund rehabilitation and maintenance of the drainage system and road network.