Cash woes at City Hall continue… staff, garbage companies still unpaid

Last Updated on Friday, 27 May 2016, 17:34 by Denis Chabrol

The two major solid waste disposal companies that serve Georgetown on Friday continued to express grave concern about City Hall’s failure to pay them millions of dollars for services provided during the past several months.

Employees of the Georgetown City Council were again not paid on Friday, despite a cautious assurance by a top finance official at City Hall on Wednesday, May 25, 2016.

Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan said he was aware of representation made by City Hall and that the Ministry of Finance was examining what could be done to relieve the cash crisis that has hit the Georgetown Municipality.  He could not say when the Finance Ministry would disburse funds to City Hall. Pressed on whether his intervention would result in cash being disbursed to the Municipality to pay staff and key service providers, Bulkan skirted the question and said “I don’t have a cheque book. The Central Government has given a subvention to the municipality but there are certain challenges. We will bring a responsive and responsible approach to these challenges,” he said.

Bulkan later said he would be speaking with the “administrative element” at City Hall to ascertain whether the financial problems told to him by Demerara Waves were factual. He said he had heard that salaries and other debts had not been paid.

The Public Relations Officer of City Hall did not return calls and Town Clerk, Royston King declined to speak with Demerara Waves Online News until possibly next week Monday. However, Chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, Oscar Clarke confirmed that the Council was broke because property owners have not been paying their taxes.  Due to the municipality’s financial plight, Clarke hoped that the Town Clerk has already sought the Central Government’s assistance. “I would certainly want to make that approach if it has not yet been made given the situation about which I am not entirely unaware of,”  said Clarke.

Top officials of Cevons Waste Management Inc and Puran Brothers Disposal  complained bitterly that they were now tired of repeated promises of being paid.  Cevons is owed GYD$136 million for work done since August, 2015 and Puran Brothers has submitted claims amounting to more than GYD$40 million dating back to January, 2016.

Managing Director of Cevons Waste Management Inc; Morse Archer said he was told  to check back next week Tuesday for payment but his patience has now been exhausted by the “empty promises.” His company plans to write the Town Clerk, a move that could include an ultimatum for the suspension of garbage collection services. “That’s an option if you leave me with no alternative but I don’t want to cause much anxiety,” Archer told Demerara Waves Online News.

Kaleshwar Puran of Puran Brothers Disposal Inc. said his company was in a difficult situation and planned to make a firm decision on the way forward at a management meeting on Saturday. “We had to make arrangements to pay staff. Our resources are depleted,” he said. Puran, like Archer, also said his company was being told repeatedly to check back on given days for payment but none has been forthcoming.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee confirmed that he has signed a number of  vouchers but acknowledged that that did not translate to payments.

He said City Hall needed approximately GYD$55 million to meet some payments including salaries. Clarke said City Hall has received judgments against a number of property owners for the non-payment of GYD$200 million in rates and taxes. He said the judgments commanded the owners to pay up, failing which City Hall has a right to seize the properties.

Construction works have been also halted at the Kitty Market and a presidential park that is under construction on the Merriman’s Mall between Upper Church Street and Upper North Road.