Town Clerk (ag) of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, Candace Nelson says the work of the council is now at a standstill because the Mayor Ubraj Narine and other councilors have refused to recognise her as the Town Clerk.
Nelson was appointed Town Clerk (ag) by the Local Government Commission in July this year. The Mayor claims that the appointment of Nelson is illegal, pointing to the Municipal and District Council Act Cap 28:01, but the Commission has stated that the Local Government Commission Act of 2013 gives it the authority to do so.
The Mayor has since moved to legally challenge the appointment in the High Court and is asking for Nelson to be dismissed as Town Clerk.
Nelson held a press briefing on Friday at the Kitty Market in Georgetown where she stated that the situation is affecting the work of the council. However, she said that the ongoing court case does not prevent her from executing her duties.
“With all of the challenges I have been trying my best to function within the confines of Chapter 28:01.
“The work of the council is indeed being affected because we are not able at this time to have our committee meetings and even statutory meetings as per normal and this is the level where decisions are actually made on the operation of the council,” Nelson explained.
For the month of August there was no committee meeting, but Nelson is hopeful that the matter will be resolved in the shortest time in the best interest of the citizens of Georgetown.
In the meantime, Nelson said she was able to hold discussions with the heads of department about implementing a new approach to the council. This, she explained, includes institutional strengthening and capacity building.
“This is necessary to allow officers and workers of the municipality to respond appropriately to the new situations in local communities brought about in large measure by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, every employee at every level needs to be re-educated, retrained and re-equipped to effectively execute their duties.
Nelson also stated that there needs to be a serious review of the norms and practices at City Hall.
“Some of these norms and practices have the potential to undermine systems of accountability and good corporate governance,” Nelson said.
The council has no money
“It is not a mantra but the reality, the council has no money,” Nelson revealed on Friday. The Town Clerk sought to explain that the new approach to the council also includes strengthening its capacity to collect revenue by enforcing regulation and by designing and implementing a set of clear policies.
She stated that there are a number of commercial and residential properties that continue to owe the Council large sums of money, however, she could not say off hand the total amount of monies owed.
“For this year, we have collected 69.2 per cent of collectable taxes.”
Nelson said even with amnesties some businesses are refusing or neglecting to pay their taxes. As such, she believes that laws and regulations relating to the recovery of outstanding monies needs to be reviewed.
“I also believe that the council would need to form alliances with regulatory bodies to collect its fair share of taxes from those who continue to use city services,” Nelson said.
Later this month, the council is expected to hold a special stakeholder conference aimed at making Georgetown clean and green again.
“I would be the first to admit that the city is untidy, it needs to be cleaned up and sanitized,” Nelson stated.
She said there is garbage everywhere, canals and waterways need to cleared and city infrastructure needs attention but the council does not have the resources at the moment.