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City Council plans to present GY$77 million deficit late budget; hazy accountability for spending during 9 months

Last Updated on Monday, 2 October 2023, 11:52 by Denis Chabrol

City Mayor Alfred Mentore

Ten months into the year, City Hall is this Thursday slated to present its GY$2.6 billion budget for 2023 budget with a deficit of GY$77.2 million, but there is no clear plan for how the Council would account for monies already spent for the year.

The total bill for salaries, wages and allowances totals GY$1,340,648,272.

According to figures seen by Demerara Waves Online News, the municipality’s budgeted expenditure for this year could be GY$2.6 billion and revenue GY$2.5 billion.

In terms of accounting for expenses from January to September 2023 based on one-third of the previous year’s budget, City Mayor Alfred Mentore said the Town Clerk “takes over the Council” during an election period and so that officer would be required to account for spending during that period. “That is an administrative period that they would have to account for,” he said.

He added that regardless of the administrative period, payments are approved by the Council but during a period of six weeks to eight months no payments were made because there was no Council or Finance Committee to approve payments.

Concerning the prolonged delay in the City not having a budget for 2023, Mr Mentore said the package of revenues and expenditures should have been presented around March or April but the City Engineer’s Department “had to sort out a number of things and they took a little longer than they should.” He said that delay was further compounded by the holding of Local Government Elections in June 2023. Noting that he was not sworn in as City Mayor until August 7, time eventually elapsed until September- October.

“Election itself was what was the humbug. You know, people were campaigning so by the time you reach April-May. You were not getting a proper quorum for meetings. The delay was caused by a number of different things,” he said.

People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) Councillor Jainarine “Don” Singh

When contacted, People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) Councillor Jainarine “Don” Singh deemed the budget “a redundancy”. “It is incomplete. A lot of details are missing. I suppose passing in October of the budget really makes it an exercise in futility to review it.

Mr Singh hoped that the groundwork would soon be laid for a proper budget for 2024. “What we have to do is keep the budget, have a look at it and make sure what was budgeted to be spent is spent and the revenue projected, income, came in. We can only urge that the 2024 can be a lot more timely and we will push on our end of the political spectrum to make sure that happens,” he said.

The estimates contain no details of the salaries for Heads of Departments and other senior officers of the City administration but wages and salaries for the Town Clerk, Human Resources, City Constabulary, City Treasurer’s, Public Health, Solid Waste Management, City Engineers and Markets departments total GY$1,130, 804, 677 and includes GY$53,847,842 for an increase in salaries for 2023. The council is also budgeted to spend GY$209,843,595 in allowances. In 2022, the City administration had catered for 602 workers and this year’s budget assumes a staff complement of 833.

With the city faced with clogged drains and canals, litter-strewn streets, garbage and vegetation-choked alleyways, uncollected garbage and piles of garbage, the Solid Waste Department is projected to spend GY$168 million by year-end to pay contractors to remove garbage, GY$1.5 million to hire heavy duty equipment, GY$8 million on loose tools, GY$13 million on fuel and lubricants and GY$139 million on vehicles and machinery and plant and machinery.

However, the Council has budgeted GY$92,675,246 on wages and salaries and GY$112,414,378 in allowances by the end of the year for the Solid Waste Department.

The Solid Waste Department’s projected expenditure GY$477,541,076. Projected revenue by the end of 2023 is tallied at GY$378 million with GY$2 million from licences, GY$10 million from waste disposal fees, GY$260 million from household refuse fees; GY$100 million from commercial properties refuse collection; miscellaneous fees of GY$6 million; GY$1 million from municipal cleansing fees via skip bins.

Of note, the Georgetown City Council hopes to rake in a mere GY$5 million in littering and court fines for this year.

The City Engineer’s Department plans to spend GY$257, 122, 571 on wages and salaries and GY$44,723,858 on allowances by the end of 2023. The Council has budgeted GY$7 million for weeding of road shoulders and verges, GY$20 million for the weeding and cleaning of canals and drains; GY$20 million for weeding and cleaning of cemeteries. parks, compounds, playfields and lawns; GY$4 million for the maintenance of kokers, pounds, pall-offs, fences and culverts; and GY$150 million for a constituency enhancement project.

No monies have been set aside for the City Engineers Department to maintain and recondition streets and roads, purchase road building materials, weed parapets, repair dilapidated tombs, and purchase of building materials for maintenance and repairs; construction of roads and streets; rehabilitation of roads and streets; construction of bridges and rehabilitation of bridges, and rehabilitation of drains and canals.

Overall, the City Engineers Department hopes to spend GY$766,633,453 this year and earn GY$70.5 million. Sources of revenue are GY$30 million from building fees, GY$5 million from permits for public signs and ads, GY$3 million from garden fees, GY$18 million from cemetery fees and GY$4.5 million from inspection fees, GY$5 million each in recovery fees and sale of obsolete equipment.

Of the GY$179,642,449 that the Markets Department intends to spend, it is by year-end projected to spend GY$128,281, 943 on wages and salaries and GY$17,262,455 on allowances.

The largest chunk of GY$316,506,735 revenue for the Markets Department is expected to be GY$223,753,935 from the rental of stalls; GY$45,520,000 from landing fees; GY$22,120,000 from cleansing fees; GY$4,900,000 from casual rentals; GY$4,730,000 from arrears rentals; GY$6,420,000 from transfer fees; GY$480,000 for miscellaneous provisions; GY$850,000 for removal fees/dues; GY$1,762,800 from Bourda bush; GY$3,680,000 in late fees and GY$2,290,000 from casual fish.

The budget states that the City Treasurer’s Department would by the end of the year likely cater for 65 percent (GY$1,653,000,001) of the City Council’s revenue through rates, container fees, and 0ther sundries collection.  The City Engineer, Town Clerk, Solid Waste and Public Health Departments are projected to contribute most of the remaining total revenue which is 22 percent or GY$569 million.

The City Council states that to ensure it meets those targets, the focus will be on getting defaulters and delinquent taxpayers to pay their debts. City Hall also plans to increase rates and taxes by working closely with the Valuation Office to make the necessary adjustments to the rates charged on properties in Georgetown.

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