Training complex, prime reserves among properties City Council looking to discard
By Kurt Campbell
As the head of the Investment and Development Committee of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council, Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentore is reportedly leading negotiations for questionable sales and leases of state and reserve lands and council properties, the News Room has been informed.
The ad hoc nature of these deals which are done without any clear direction and in some cases have seen the filing of legal action against the Council, has prompted the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development to issue two warnings.
When contacted on Monday, subject minister Nigel Dharamlall would not identify the properties and lands being disposed of by the Georgetown M&CC either through a sale or a leasing arrangement.
“I am not in a position to divulge that information, there have been a lot of reserves that the council has been seeking to dispose of, to a large extent to cronies within the city.
“We have also been made aware that they are disposing of buildings that belong to the city, like very prime properties,” he told the News Room via telephone on Monday.
A source from within the M&CC has confirmed, however, that one of the buildings being disposed of is the decades-old Constabulary Training Complex on Water Street, Georgetown.
The News Room was told that an application was already sent to the Investment and Development Committee and a decision was taken to move forward with the deal.
Other reserves and state lands have also been applied for with consideration being given despite the warnings and a circular issued to all municipalities and NDCs since 2020 “that they cannot go ahead and dispose of any property.”
“They don’t own any of these properties and they can only dispose of them under the permission of the government,” Dharamlall said.
The News Room was also informed by its source that the council is already facing legal actions for several plots of land either sold or leased by the council.
A recent lawsuit was filed after the council leased a plot of land at Conversation Tree Road, Bel Air, Greater Georgetown. That land was reportedly leased to a company but it was later discovered that the land did not belong to the Council and was, in fact, owned by a man who had a transport for the property.
These deals are mostly reviewed and sanctioned by the Committee headed by the Deputy Mayor.
A joint statement from the Mayor and Deputy Mayor posted on the Facebook page of Mayor Ubraj Narine, noted that there is no arrangement to sell the assets of the Council but rather there may be leasing engagements being pursued.
Mayor Narine said the Local Government Minister does have a say, according to law, in the sale of assets but assured that there was no sale and challenged the minister to provide evidence.
“It is the Council that approves or disapproves of leases following a process and based on its policy which is followed by all applicants for the use of land or property of the Council.
“This process is no secret and is captured in reports which are made to the Council and deliberated on,” the statement noted.
According to the statement, Mentore also expressed frustration with the allegations levelled against the Council and questioned the motive of the recently published warnings. He indicated that the Council was never appraised of any issue which may arise from any lease or applicant.
Dharamlall insists that there are a series of properties and lands for which persons have applied for.
According to him, “some have been disposed of, yes.”
The government said despite previous expressions of concern, new reports indicate that the City Council is continuing these clandestine pursuits unabated.
The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development said that it will not condone or stand idly by while the M&CC continue to pursue actions for negotiated disposal of the city’s assets in a manner that contravenes the high standards of accountability, transparency and adherence to the rule of law that has been established within the national governance frameworks for Guyana.
CABAL AT CITY HALL
Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo also weighed in on the issue on Monday.
“There is a cabal at City Council who has been going around and trying to find out all the lands that the council owns in the city including on the waterfront and they have been quietly trying to broker deals.”
He said such sale and lease should be a public process because broker deals are generating bribes for some and city council gets a tiny fraction of the market value for rental or sale.
“The Councillors should pay attention to this because there are a few doing it,” he said.
The Deputy Mayor intends to engage the Head of State on the matter.