…says promotion of “return to local democracy” just rhetoricWith the Local Government Commission complaining about continued control being exerted over its operations by Central Government, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is of the view that Government has shown it is not serious about local government.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoThis assertion was made during a recent press conference, when the Opposition Leader cited recent complaints from Commission Chair Mortimer Mingo. According to Jagdeo, Mingo’s difficulties are reminiscent of the fight it took to even get the Government to set up the commission.“How disappointing! Well, I shouldn’t say disappointing, knowing all along that it was just a rhetoric about the return to local government democracy,” Jagdeo said. “They took great credit for returning local government democracy, for ten years stymieing it in that body that we had, the Joint Committee.”The former President pointed to the conduct of Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan. Following another Mayoral elections for the Region One municipality of Mabaruma ending in a tie, Bulkan wrote to the Town Clerk, Barrington Ward, citing the incumbent Mayor Henry Smith as the winner.Mortimer Mingo, who is the Chairman of the Local Government Commission, was quoted in sections of the media as stating that since the commission has not received the $110 million allocated in the 2018 budget, it has not been able to hire permanent staff.“This is what Mortimer Mingo said: ‘$110 million budgeted in 2018, we have not received any money as yet. We don’t have a permanent office and we cannot hire any permanent staff’. So Bulkan continues to exercise the functions of this body, which is a constitutional body,”Jagdeo said.“They didn’t want to put the Local Government Commission in place. We had to fight for that to happen, (and) eventually it got appointed,” Jagdeo recalled.DifficultiesOn Friday last, the PPP members on the Local Government Commission had much to say about the workings of the commission. Commissioners Norman Whittaker, Clinton Collymore and Carol Sooba were sworn in since October of last year, but, according to them, the body is being propped up as just a front, while Central Government essentially runs the show. The commissioners complained that at every level they are being stymied by the Government, when Government is actually supposed to ensure the commission’s autonomy.The Commission was sworn in last year October, after a lengthy delay. The parliamentary Opposition had named its nominees to the Local Government Commission since 2016. However, since the Government did not submit its nominations, deadlock had resulted.One of the first public deadlines that Minister Bulkan gave for the body to become functional was at a press conference during the time of the March 2016 Local Government Elections. Asked during the latter part of the month for an explanation, the Minister had moved the deadline to the end of June 2016.In the Budget estimates for 2016, some $30 million was allocated by the Government to the non-functioning Commission. When asked, Bulkan had stated that this was to allow the Commission to operate independently of Central Government.The commission is charged with, among other things, control over who gets appointed as officials in the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and other local authorities. In addition, it would have to approve budgets for the NDCs.By law, the commission is to be made up of eight members. The members of the commission include four nominated by the Government, one from the unions, and three nominees from the Leader of the Opposition.The Commission’s members are Mortimer Mingo, Clement Corlette, Marlon Williams, Jo Ann Romascindo, Andrew Garnett, former Local Government Ministers Whittaker and Collymore, and former Georgetown Town Clerk Carol Sooba.
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