…M&CC calls on citizens to get on boardTo commemorate Georgetown’s 175th anniversary, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) will facilitate a massive clean-up campaign of the city on August 12, 2018 in and around the Stabroek and Bourda Markets areas.The Council is calling on all corporations, organisations, agencies, groups, and individuals to take part in this exercise, which will include clearing of drains, weeding of parapets, removal of scattered and accumulated refuse from pavements, roadsides and other thoroughfares. Also, trimming and painting of trees and other beautification activities would be undertaken.According to the M&CC, through a statement released on Saturday, it will be providing all cleaning tools and garbage bags to assist those who will be part ofSectors of the Stabroek Market as the clean-up campaign commences.this campaign.The release further noted that street and roadside vending would be permitted on that day in the central business district of the city. The Council is also calling on all store owners to support the campaign and cooperate with its officials to sanitise the areas in which they operate.Corporations and community groups interested in doing their clean-up must make contact with the Solid Waste Department or visit the office of the Town Clerk to register for collection and removal of waste.During last week’s launching of “City Week”, Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase Green had mentioned that “City Week”, running from August 19-25, would be filled with various activities showcasing the diversity of the city.According to the Mayor, the objective of the initiative is to bring awareness to the citizens of Guyana and to also have every citizen participate in the activities.“We have come a long way from when we were ruled by the Dutch. There were many complaints, for example: about the city flooding as soon as rain falls, so now we have gone from that era and we are now trying to improve in other areas as well,” the Mayor explained.Although bus operators are frustrated by the actions of the M&CC to displace the Route 42 bus park, they are still awaiting word as to whether they will be placed at a different location or they will have to ply their trade on the “hot plate”.On August 19, the day will start with a church service at the St George’s Cathedral followed by an opening ceremony at Stabroek Market Square.Some of the other activities planned include an arts and crafts exhibition on Main Street, a health fair, cocktail reception and a beachfront party at the Guyana Marriott Hotel.It was noted that most of the funding for these activities will be sponsored by several different companies. The “City Week” celebration will be branded and “promoted as a tourist attraction”.
GECOM sub-plot– as $100M radio set scandal swept under carpetThe People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioners on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have declared a complete loss of confidence in Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield’s ability to carry out the duties of his office.During a press conference held at Freedom House on Friday, Commissioners Sase Gunraj, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick detailed a litany of complaints at the way GECOM is being run. Their appraisal of the CEO also comes against the backdrop of Lowenfield’s contract being renewed for another three years.GECOM CEO Keith LowenfieldThe Commissioners reported that there was a distinct disinterest within the GECOM hierarchy regarding the results of an audit conducted by the Auditor General into issues of procurement around the time of the May 2015 General and Regional Elections. Specifically, the Commissioners looked at GECOM’s purchase of $100 million in radio equipment.The Auditor General’s office had found discrepancies in the purchase of 50 VHF communication radios by the body. Concerns had been raised about the high price tag. As Lowenfield has been the CEO since 2014, the Commissioners expected that affirmative action on his part would be taken.However, Commissioner Gunraj reported that during a special meeting where the CEO’s contract was a substantive matter to be discussed, the subject of the forensic audits was raised. He explained that it came up as the audit was at the time featured prominently on the front page of local newspapers. He claimed that the matter was brushed aside.PPP Commissioners Sase Gunraj, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick“At the meeting, we were told that GECOM did not request an audit, so we ought not to pay heed to such an audit. Now, if ever there is an (example) of burying your head in the sand, then there couldn’t be a better one.”“This thing was on the front page of the newspapers for three weeks and we ought not to pay heed to it? Then tell me what we ought to pay heed to. As the Chief Elections Officer, the incumbent is the accounting officer. In the face of all those allegations, there was no desire to even await the outcome or report of that audit before we had this matter for consideration.”According to Commissioner Shadick, “one of the commissioners on the other side specifically said we did not request the audit. And since we did not ask that audit, we should not let that be a factor in our (deliberations).”When asked what had been the GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally’s position on the matter, Shadick said that he voted with them. And according to Commissioner Benn, this does not inspire confidence in the CEO.“Given the nature of the charges of the issues raised in the press, the CEO should have stepped down, stepped aside, until the audit was finished,” Benn said.Lowenfield, a former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Officer, was appointed the Chief Elections Officer in 2014. He got the nod ahead of former acting CEO Carlton Benn and two foreign applicants. Since then, he has overseen the May 2015 General and Regional Elections of 2015, as well as the 2016 Local Government Elections.Opposition Parliamentarian Ganga Persaud had filed a petition against the elections result. Lowenfield, through his attorney, had submitted a challenge against this petition. This challenge was overruled by then Chief Justice Ian Chang.However, the three Commissioners also believe that Lowenfield, due to his particular position, should not be a combatant in the proceedings, but rather strictly a respondent.“There is no confidence in a CEO who undertakes an action which fundamentally undercuts the integrity and transparency of the Agency. This is specifically in reference to his application to the courts. It cannot stand.”Commissioner Gunraj stressed that while, as a citizen, anyone is entitled to redress in the courts, Lowenfield’s particular position as GECOM’s CEO made it necessary for him to not be a combatant in the proceedings.Accountable to ParliamentWhen contacted on Friday, CEO Lowenfield refuted assertions that he had to address the Auditor General’s audit at the Commission’s level. He stated that the law stipulates that he is accountable to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and that it would have been addressed at that level.“The CEO, as accounting officer, was accountable in 2015 to the Ministry of Finance. An audit was done, an audit report was presented. It is a public document. And I have to go to the (PAC) with that.”“So the Audit General’s office, which completed and submitted their report to Parliament and the PAC, will be addressing that. That is not a matter for the Commission. In 2015 GECOM was a budget agency, which fell directly under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance and the Audit General’s office. They’re the ones who the law prescribed to treat with that.”