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Last Wednesday, June 1st, the PPP government used its majority on the Local Government Commission (LGC) to pass a motion to empower its Chairman and Deputy Chairman to make decisions as a two-man team without the constitutionally-mandated involvement of the entire body. According to the opposition, “This is another blatant attempt by the PPP regime to roll back democracy and to impose a dictatorship.”
The LGC is a constitutional commission that was established, among other things, to deal with all matters relating to staffing of local government organs and, more broadly, to examine and propose ways of enhancing the capacity of these bodies. The eight members of the commission are selected by the President, the Leader of the Opposition (after consultation with other parliamentary parties) and the trade unions within the local government system.
According to the opposition statement, “The motion seeks to establish a two-man so-called in-house executive management body purportedly to (quoting the motion itself) “ensure the efficient management of the activities of the various local government organs would not be constrained in any way based on the sole monthly statutory meetings of the commission to approve decisions which are required as a matter of urgency.”
The opposition statement noted that, “Guyanese must reject this devious and shameful motion on several grounds. First, it violates basic principles of good governance. Second, it flies in the face of the LGC Act 2013 itself. Third, it exposes the ineptitude of the LGC Chair and his Deputy to implement basic administrative and management tools to address the purported inefficiencies. Last, and most pertinently, the motion is a brazen ploy to grab more political power by the PPP regime.”
It is the opposition’s position that the LGC Act is abundantly clear that in every instance where it refers to the mandate, functions, and authority of the commission, it always means the entire membership of the LGC (or its quorum). Nowhere does the Act grant the commission the powers to grant final decision-making or managerial authority to any subset of itself. Nowhere does the Act allow the creation of any executive committee to usurp the constitutional powers of the LGC. Nowhere does the Act allow the LGC to become a mere rubber stamp.
The opposition statement indicated that, “If indeed the commission should wish to ensure efficient management, then it can make use of its powers under Section 22 (1) of the LGC Act, 2013, which reads:
“The Commission shall employ a Secretary and other officers and employees as may be necessary for the efficient discharge of its functions.”
This section allows the commission to employ, for example, investigators, legal officers, and administrators who can help the commission perform its duties effectively. But, obviously, the LGC Chairman and the other PPP members on the commission are more interested in micro-managing the commission to achieve their partisan political objectives. Their claim that the aim is to ensure effective management is a smoke screen.
We intend to take this matter to the courts. Meanwhile, we call on the Chairman of the LGC to withdraw the illegal and disgraceful motion. Guyanese see right through it. “