Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Friday hinted that the contract provides for Smart City Solution to halt parking meter operations, if City Hall does not heed Cabinet’s call for a 90-day suspension of paid parking.
Quite hopeful that the 30-member Council would support Cabinet’s desire to put a brake on the system of paid parking to allow for renegotiation of the contract, Harmon said there is legal room through force majeure ((occurrences beyond the reasonable control of a party) for the suspension of the contract to allow for its renegotiation in the wake of several concerns by government and the public.
“There are two options: one is suspension, of course the other is revocation and if the intervention of a party under what might be termed force majeure exist, then certainly the parties to the contract can understand what needs to be done and the contract spells out itself in clear terms what force majeure is and what needs to be done,” said Harmon, a lawyer by profession. He added that if the Mayor and City Council and SCS do not agree, there is provision for arbitration.
The agreement between SCS and the Mayor and City Councillors states that force majeure shall be considered to have occurred for any for any event beyond the reasonable control of the concessionaire that delays, interrupts or limits the performance of the concessionaire’s obligation . Occurrences, according to the agreement that may trigger force majeure include interference by civil or military authorities, condemnation or confiscation of property or equipment by any governmental authority, stop-work order , injunction issued by a governmental authority, or a governmental embargo. The contract adds that the concessionaire may extend the term for any and each force majeure event lasting more than 30 days.
Against the background of concerns by Town Clerk, Royston King that the contract between City Hall and Smart City Solutions does not provide for suspension and can result in City Hall having to provide costly compensation, he said the two sides would have to address that. “Those are legal issues which will be dealt with but the government made its concern very clear and, therefore, whether there is to be compensation or not that’s a matter to be addressed in the process,” he said.
The Minister of State said government expects that City Hall would heed its advice and take the matter to 30-member council for ratification and subsequent communication of the elected body’s decision to SCS. “Cabinet has given its advice and we expect that the advice will be heeded by the City Council,” he said.
Harmon said government is concerned that parking meters have been installed on some streets that are within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, SCS has used parapets that are not under City Hall’s jurisdiction, and that there has been no provision for the parking of police, fire and ambulatory services in areas of Georgetown. Government has since listed the several streets and roads in Georgetown for which it is responsible and SCS and City Hall have no authority to erect parking meters.
The contract says police, fire, medical and ambulances are exempt from parking meter fees only when the vehicles are parked in metered parking spaces in emergency performance of their duties.
He added that Cabinet also registered its concern about the cost of parking, the financial arrangements of the project, the need greater involvement of stakeholders in the process, and concerns expressed by citizens of Georgetown and Guyana generally. “It was felt, must be taken into consideration. In fact, it was a very strong view of Cabinet that the concerns of citizens always must be taken into consideration in these matters,” he said. For six weeks now, each Thursday hundreds of persons have been holding a silent one-hour protest outside City Hall calling for the revocation of the contract because of a lack consultation, exorbitant fees, and other burdensome conditions.
Up to Thursday, Town Clerk Royston King appeared resistant to central government’s desire for a temporary halt of the contract, saying that it will open up the council to costly legal action and compensation and at least 60 persons would lose their jobs.
The agreement states that the contract can be terminated by mutual consent. However, if City Hall terminates the contract without SCS’ consent or it is is cancelled, rescinded or voided the City shall pay SCS a lump sum payment equivalent to the total direct direct and indirect, hard and soft cost cumulative gross investments of the concessionaire in the profit plus an amount equal to 25 percent of the total direct and indirect
hard and soft cost cumulative amounts.
SCS has invested US$10 million in the project.