By Telesha Ramnarine
THE ruptured relationship that exists between the administration and the Region Four Regional Democratic Council (RDC) continues to stymie vital developmental works in this section of the country, with the work programme moving slowly ahead.
While Regional Chairman Daniel Seeram blames the insubordination of Deryck Persaud, who is acting as the Regional Executive Officer (REO), Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall is saying that the problems are as a result of undue political interference in the workings of the council.
Neither the administration nor the Council wants to acknowledge each other’s authority, and Minister Dharamlall believes that there is some amount of confusion as to who is responsible for what. He said that one of the reasons for his visit to the RDC last week was to iron out this and suchlike issues.
The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)-controlled Council is saying that it wants to continue to function as an independent body, and that the Local Government Ministry, with the backing of the acting REO, is not allowing this to happen.
Dharamlall has indicated, though, that the issue goes further than this, in that there are instances of corruption that have to be investigated at the Triumph, East Coast Demerara RDC office. A case in point, he disclosed, was where a high-ranking RDC officer received a quotation in his name for over $2M to have a local business conduct a leadership conference.
“Concerns were raised by some councillors in terms of how procurement is done, and so we were able to clarify. It was indicated in one instance where procurement has been done via sole sourcing, and I found, too, that in one case, an invoice went to a councillor as part of procurement, and those are things that are not supposed to happen,” Dharamlall informed.
While the RDC has had many issues previously, the minister said he has observed that that many officers are acting in harmony with the new culture of work in the government, by upping their game in terms of the way they respond to people’s concerns, and how they conduct their business.
However, he said the Council seems to be seeking to exceed its mandate by trying to overreach the work of the administration.
“That has to be nipped in the bud, for them to focus on providing leadership rather than seeking to get involved in the actual administration of the region. We had to clarify those things, and I hope everyone is clear now where their authority is,” Minister Dharamlall noted.
Last Thursday’s meeting between the Council and Heads of Department was also to ensure that the work programme is implemented, and that tenders are being awarded judiciously.
“We’re coming to the end of the year, so we expect that those projects that were budgeted for will be executed on time,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, Regional Chairman Seeram told the Guyana Chronicle that the acting REO is breaching public service rules by speaking directly to the minister, while failing to air his concerns with the council. If he has any issues with how the RDC is conducting its business, Seeram stressed that Persaud has a duty to go back to the council.
Accusing Persaud of removing documents and taking photos to show the minister, Seeram said he is unable to provide any updates on the region’s work programme, and speak on any financial matters, because Persaud withholds the information.
Seeram noted, too, that the acting REO does not send out his memos, does not take his calls, and fails to visit his office when summoned.
“Letters of reprimand were issued; we keep asking him for information. If he doesn’t want to listen, he will be disciplined severely,” Seeram said.
Even COVID-19 updates which are relayed to Persaud are not shared with the RDC, Seeram noted.