By: Devina Samaroo
A local businessman’s quest to expand his operations in the city is being frustrated by the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC), which has not responded to any of his business proposals dating back to 2014.
Terrence Campbell, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Camex Restaurants Inc., which owns the Church’s Chicken franchise, believes the “system is set up to force you to pay a bribe otherwise you suffer huge losses.”
Campbell detailed to the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) into City Hall of more than five cases where his requests for construction and renovations of buildings were ignored by the City’s Engineering Department, despite intervention by the then Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).
Prompted by COI Chairman, Justice Cecil Kennard, the businessman said he suspects the lack of response by City Hall is due to “pure incompetence” and “gross negligence.” On the other hand, he believes it is a deliberate system to force frustrated businessmen to engage in corrupt practices. Campbell said he was even nudged to go that route in order for his proposals to be approved but he refused to do so.
“…I was a very young man in my early twenties when I made a decision that I will never pay a bribe and I would rather lose $30 million than pay a cent in a bribe,” Campbell stated.
The businessman also believes there are other entrepreneurs who are in collusion with city officials to frustrate the business ventures of their competitions.
In one of his business deals which flopped due to the lack of response from the M&CC, the businessman suffered losses in excess of $20 million, despite not having sold “a single piece of chicken” at a property located on Croal Street, Stabroek.
He explained that in 2016, he entered into a long-term lease agreement for the property which housed the Sino Restaurant, which is located at the Kitty Bus Park area.
The businessman’s intention was to open up a restaurant there but was blocked from doing so by city officials who said he needed permission. Campbell indicated that it was a strange stipulation since the property was already being used as a restaurant by the previous tenants.
Nonetheless, on September 15, 2016, he submitted the necessary documents seeking permission to operate a restaurant but to date he has not received any response from City Hall.
Campbell said his company had already expended millions in internal renovations. Additionally, he had already paid down more than one year’s rent. The company was forced to terminate the lease agreement earlier this year, a move which incurred penalty fees. The company also had to undo all its renovations to return the property to its original state, costing more millions.
In January 2014, the businessman said proposals were submitted for the construction of a restaurant in South Ruimveldt Gardens. In July 2015, a request was made for the extension of an existing office building at Camp Street, North Cummingsburg. In both cases, no responses were provided.
In April 2016, the business had applied for permission to renovate a property he purchased at Crown Street, Queenstown. After receiving no response, he torn down the building then made a request to erect a new structure; there has since been no response.
A similar situation exists with a residential property in Lamaha Gardens which the businessman wanted to renovate. He says there has been no response from City Hall.