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…chairman accuses Dharamlall of changing budgetary proposals
By Svetlana Marshall
The Union-Naarstigheid Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), in West Coast Berbice (WCB), is accusing the Minister of Local Government Nigel Dharamlall and the Region Five Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of usurping its powers.
In an interview with Village Voice Newspaper, Chairman of Union-Naarstigheid NDC, Tiffeny McFarlane-Mentore said since the change in administration in August 2020, the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development has been engaged in micro-management aimed at dictating the developmental agenda of the local organ while largely ignoring the immediate needs of the people.
McFarlane-Mentore said after assessing the needs of the 13 villages within its jurisdiction, the NDC, in 2020, submitted its budget proposal to the Regional Democratic Council for approval, so as to access its $5M subvention.
“In 2020, we submitted our budget proposal for the construction of two bridges to cover the $5M subvention, however, when they took office, they wrote us and said that we must purchase street lights, crusher run and tar,” she said.
McFarlane-Mentore said the NDC, in a correspondence to Minister of Local Government, registered its objection. In the letter, the NDC had explained that the budgetary proposal was made after extensive consultation with residents and ought to be accepted by the Ministry.
She said though Minister Dharamlall responded by acknowledging the letter sent by the NDC, he proceeded with his plans.
Without informing the NDC, the Local Government Ministry through the RDC proceeded to use the NDC’s subvention for the procurement and installation of street lights in Bush Lot – a village dominated with supporters of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
McFlarlane-Mentore said to compound the situation all of the street lights were installed in Bush Lot while ignoring the needs of other villages like Catherina’s Lust.
“They still went ahead and they did what they wanted to do with it. They purchased street lights and they put it in the Bush Lot community. Only Bush Lot alone benefited from those street lights, which in we have Catherina’s Lust at the end has no street lights, and those areas really need street lights. They didn’t put any there, they only put in Bush lot,” the NDC Chairman explained.
The street lights, according to the NDC Chairman, were installed early 2021. Usually, the NDC chairman is required to sign off on the completed work deeming it satisfactory or not, but in this case, the RDC bypassed McFarlane-Mentore, and relied on a PPP/C councilor to sign off the work.
Added to that, she said the RDC proceeded to purchase crusher-run to the tune of $1.269M from a businessman in Corentyne though the NDC made no such order.
“I was told that the crusher run was purchased and delivered to Onverwagt, we don’t know which part of Onverwagt. Our office is not at Onverwagt, no crusher run was delivered to the NDC so I don’t know where in Onerwagt this crusher run was delivered,” McFarlane-Mentore said while describing the RDC as a dictator.
McFarlane-Mentore said the NDC has already submitted its budget proposal for 2021. It is proposing to use its $5M subvention for the purchase and installation of street lights and tubes, and the construction and repairs of bridges, however, a response from the RDC is pending.
Attempts to contact the Minister of Local Government on Friday proved futile.
McFarlane-Mentore told Village Voice News that when the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition took Office in 2015, many villages, particularly those dominated by coalition supporters, lack basic amenities.
“The roads were in poor shape, the drains were clogged, no street lights, residents expired flooding,” the NDC Chairman said as she painted a picture of the situation.
McFarlane-Mentore said when she took Office in 2019, her council continued the work started in 2018 by rehabilitating the villages. She said it was under her Council that many villages within the NDC received street lights.
“When we got it, a lot of the issues were resolved, like the street lights in all of the villages, some streets were upgraded to bitumen, drains were cleaned, some areas that had to get tubes, got those tubes,” she said.
The NDC Chairman said community grounds were upgraded particularly those in Hope Town, Trafalgar and Lovely Lass.
It was noted too that under the Coalition Government, the NDC’s subvention moved from $4M to $5M. McFarlane-Mentore explained that while the Council rakes in revenues from rates and taxes, it depends heavily on its annual subvention to carry out infrastructural projects in response to the needs of the villages.