GRA, businessmen to testify against City Hall at COI
…Royston King sent on leave
Businessmen, current and retired employees as well as government agencies are among those who will be testifying against City Hall at an upcoming Commission of Inquiry (COI).
The COI – which was launched by the Local Government Commission (LGC) in accordance with the laws – comes just two months before Local Government Elections where a new town council will be installed.
It will be chaired by Justice Cecil Kennard, who was the former Head of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
Andrew Garnett, Deputy Chairman of the LGC told News Room during an interview Monday that the decision to hold a COI was made in April this year in light of mounting concerns about the management and operations at City Hall.
Apart from issues of transparency and accountability surrounding the award of contracts, Garnett said current and retired employees also have complaints against the Council.
“Workers have been paying their contributions to their credit unions and it has not been remitted…there is a failure to remit their PAYE contributions. There is also a failure to remit their NIS (National Insurance Scheme) contributions,” Garnett revealed.
One of the gravest concerns, he noted, is ‘evidence’ which shows that the Stabroek Market Wharf is actually not owned by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC).
“A public agency has claimed and provided evidence to us that they own that wharf and facilities and there was no authority by the City Council to rent same,” Garnett stated.
Issues about the transformation of open spaces into residential communities for senior members of the council are also among the numerous complaints filed against City Hall.
Garnett confirmed that Town Clerk Royston King was directed to proceed on administrative leave effective Friday, pending the outcome of the COI which will begin public hearings on September 24 and last until October 31.
Garnett did not want to reveal the cost of the COI but he noted that this type of investigation was necessary given the multiplicity of the concerns raised.
“The Commission, in its own wisdom, thought it best to establish a COI and this would give ample opportunity to organisations, public agencies, private agencies, individuals, union, workers, all the players who have complained, it will give them the opportunity to take their complaints to a neutral body,” he explained.
The findings of the COI will be submitted to the Local Government Commission to take the necessary actions, if any.