PRESS STATEMENT By Regional Democratic Council, Region 10 For Press Conference on Tuesday 22 January 2008 Media Centre, Congress Place, Sophia




Review of 2007 Projects and Areas of Focus for 2008

RDC REGION 10 SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO GOVERN REGION 10:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the Media.

We, the members of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region #10, believe that, if given the chance, as the elected representatives of the people of Region #10, we would be able to govern in the interest of the people of Region10.

Unfortunately, the PPP/C Government is undermining the work of the RDC, through the manipulation, by the Minister of Regional Development, of the government officers employed in the Region, particularly the Regional Executive Officer (REO).

As we review the past year, especially as it relates to the efficiency, value for money and accountability, in the implementation of projects undertaken by the Regional Administration, on behalf of the people of Region#10, it would be clear, to all and sundry, that Region 10 would have been better served, had it not been for the deliberate acts, by the PPP/C Administration, to ensure that the elected representatives, of the people of Region 10, are prevented from discharging their responsibility for the governance of the Region.

The Regional Democratic Council of Region 10 also sees an expanded role, for the Council, to represent the views of our constituents, on several issues which do not form part of the structured ambit of the Regional Democratic Council, but which, by their very nature, cannot be isolated from our representation.

It is in this vein that we speak of issues such as: the availability of social services; the quality and availability of water in our communities; unemployment; housing; youth and sports; among others.

In 2008, as well as in the past, while the RDC had budgeted to provide services, in the areas of youth, culture and sport, the PPP/C Administration did not allocate one cent in the Regional Budget to address these very important areas. As a consequence, the RDC was unable to provide for the needs of our youth, inclusive of providing sports and other developmental facilities in our Region.

It should be noted that, in PPP/C controlled regions, resources have been allocated for youth, culture and sport.

The RDC has again budgeted for youth, culture and sport activities in Region 10, in the 2008 Budget. The PNCR is calling on the PPP/C Administration to allocate resources for these areas to enable the RDC to make a positive impact on the core concerns of our residents and contribute towards the development of youth, sport and culture in Region #10.

POOR PUBLIC WORKS WASTING TAX PAYERS MONEY:

The Public Works Department of the RDC has responsibility for a wide scope of works within our Region. It extends to, and intersects, with all of the other programmes of work, including health and education. We have observed several serious deficiencies in the work of this Department which demand our full attention in 2008.

For example, the Regional Tender Authority, which is chaired by the Regional Executive Officer, issued a contract for the rehabilitation of the Amelia’s Ward Primary School, in the sum of $2,567,632 (two million, five hundred and sixty-seven thousand, six hundred and thirty two dollars). Before the completion of the works covered by that contract, the Administration agreed to the payment, of an additional $1.2 million dollars, by way of a variation, for works not included in the original contract but which they claimed to be necessary.

A query of this additional sum, by the RDC, resulted in the Works Committee, along with the technical personnel from the Works Department, visiting the work-site to see what work this additional sum was being spent on. At the end of that inspection, the team concluded that half or more of the sum requested was not reflected in the work being done at that school. Therefore, the additional sum should not have been paid to the Contractor. Accordingly, the Works Committee then called for a more in-depth investigation by the Works Department. The results of that investigation has not, to date, been made available to the Council.

Another example is the numerous cases of roads being constructed, under the supervision of this department of the Regional Administration, which then certifies these works as completed to their satisfaction, only to have them collapse mere months afterwards.

Two glaring cases stand out, namely, the road at the Industrial Area and the Katabulli Creek Bridge at Christianburg, Wismar , in testimony to the wastage of our tax dollars.

At the commencement of the Katabulli Creek Bridge project, the Regional Administration was advised, by the elected RDC, against trying to change the outfall of the creek to accommodate this bridge. What should have been a simple project to construct a concrete bridge to replace the wooden one, turned out to be a nightmare, after the Administration ignored our very public comments and proceeded to relocate this bridge and attempted to change the channel that this water would use to flow into the Demerara River. Just one year after its construction, serious erosion took place and an additional $3.2 million dollars had to be allocated to do remedial works and revetments to ensure that the bridge did not float away.

The money spent, to date, on this bridge, which should have been less than $10.0 million dollars, is fast approaching $20.0 million dollars.

These are instances where this RDC clashed with the Administration over the issues of efficiency, accountability and ensuring that our constituents obtain value for money in the execution of projects.

The wastage and incompetence is also illustrated by the case of the rehabilitation of the Linden to Kwakwani Road, where, after the expenditure of millions of dollars, little improvement of this carriageway was evident.

Another serious matter, which the RDC of Region 10 has had to grapple with, for many years, has been the insistence of Central Government, and some other agencies, on allocating tax dollars to construct roads in Linden without addressing the need to make provision for drains, prior to or in conjunction with these works. Most Lindeners ardently support our position that, when roads are being constructed in these communities there should be the requisite concrete drains constructed prior to or, at the same time, that these roads are being built. Given the topography of the area, if this advice is ignored, after the construction of roads without the required drains, the Administration is, thereafter, forced to construct drains after erosion has taken its toll on these roads - usually within mere months of their construction - and then having to repair these roads shortly after in order to preserve them.

An illustrative case is in the Amelia’s Ward Housing Scheme, where those in authority decided that the sandy soil of this scheme could have sand drains after the construction of the roads. A mere month after there was serious damage to the roads. It was then decided that they would truck in mud from outside of Linden to build earthen drains, only to see, as any Lindener could have told these luminaries, that the water would take the path of least resistance, that is to say, it would erode the sand next to the earthen drain, which then collapsed. No concrete drains have, .to date, been constructed at Amelia’s Ward and nearly one hundred completely constructed concrete culverts had to be dug up and thrown away after they became clogged with sand from these “sand drains”.

PNCR CONDEMNS THE APPROACH OF NON CONSULTATION WITH THE RDC:

It is of great concern, to the PNCR, that external agencies are coming into the communities in Region 10 to execute projects without notifying and consulting with the local government bodies or the residents and, in cases where the skills to undertake jobs exist in the Region, the tendency is to overlook those skills.

The PNCR is of the view that more opportunities need to be given to the people of Region 10 to execute projects for which they have the competence.

Just as important, are the several instances where serious wastage of tax dollars was occasioned by this behaviour of not informing or consulting with the local people.

These are areas where a little consultation could go a long way towards saving our hard earned taxes from wastage. We urge that interaction, with the RDC and the local community, should be pursued diligently.

Another major cause for concern that focuses on whether we are getting ‘value for money’ is the method of award of contracts, as well as the efficiency in the execution of these contracts.

We have had the experience, in 2007, of projects for school buildings being delayed for one reason or another, and, finally, being executed long after the August holiday period when they should have already been completed. This results in disruptions to classes, as in the case of the Mackenzie High School where students were displaced to allow for the execution of rehabilitation work on the section of that school which also houses LICHAS. The programmed activity should have been done in a time-frame that would not affect the school’s operations. Indeed, the contract for these repairs is dated February 26th, 2007, but still this work was being executed after the restart of school in September 2007.

NEED FOR MORE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE RDC ON THE TENDER AUTHORITY:

Perhaps even more disturbing were reports of quotations being solicited for work to be done on schools AFTER the commencement of this work.

In the past, the Regional Democratic Councils, through their Finance Committees, had a chance to make an input in the method of award of tenders. This is not currently the case. With the enactment of the new legislation, giving life to the Regional Tender Authority, the RDC is relegated to having only one representative on a five person Board, most of whom, are appointed by the Minister.

This simply means that, for all intents and purposes, the RDC has no say in the award of contracts, since, invariably, our representative is out-voted four to one on concerns raised.

NEED TO CREATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOBS IN REGION 10:

The issues of employment and housing are very much on the front burner at Linden and, not a day passes, that my office is not besieged by residents who are seeking to be gainfully employed for a decent wage.

The PNCR, therefore, calls for action to be taken to create jobs for the people of Region 10.

A prime area of focus is the Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP), which is currently entering its wind-down phase.

We are still deeply concerned at the lack of delivery, in our view, of one of the most important components of this seven year programme, that of attracting Inward Investment, which speaks directly to one of the most serious deficiencies in the development of Region #10, that of job creation and the availability of employment opportunities. This is one area that we will be pressing more seriously for, the achievement of the set target of delivery of new jobs to the Linden community, through Inward Investment, which is one of the key objectives of LEAP.

Additionally, the LEAP programme has been charged with the responsibility for addressing several other much needed components of the developmental process.

With the imminent closure of this programme, the RDC will be exerting pressure to ensure that there is continuity for the programmes, inclusive of the Infrastructure Development Component - which focused on areas of infrastructure directly related to the encouragement and facilitation of economic activities - as well as institutional strengthening of the local government bodies, the Chamber of Commerce and other community based entities.

Another area of focus for this programme will be our representation of the need for continuity in the services and support offered through the Linden Economic Advancement Fund (LEAF), the financial component of this programme.

It is widely accepted, by those persons who are most affected by the circumstances we face daily here at Linden and in Region 10, that the support offered by LEAF is vital to the change of fortunes for this economically depressed community. Therefore, the RDC will continue to push for the continuation of the specific support for the small business sector offered by this financial institution.

Additionally, we will be working, with the close support of the other stakeholders on this initiative, namely, the Linden Municipality, the Linden Chamber of Industry, Commerce and Development, and the Linden Technical Institute, to address common concerns.

Residents also point to the high level of unemployment, poor quality of available jobs and the low wages and salaries for the few who have them.

There is also concern that the introduction of the excessively high 16% VAT is an additional burden on the people of Region #10. It has contributed to an increase in cost of living and the decrease in the disposable income of the people of this depressed community.

The people of Region #10 are demanding a reduction in the VAT rate as a means of reducing the cost of living and the general tax burden on the people,

As a Region, we have a development plan and we are demanding that the RDC be allowed to implement planned and structured developmental initiatives. We believe that should this be allowed the people of Region #10 will benefit significantly.

The PNCR will continue to articulate its position on the need for a development plan and to push for its implementation.
Such a plan will provide guidance to our planning for development in Region 10, and will present unique opportunities for improvement of the governmental process.

LINDENERS CONCERNED ABOUT GOVERNMENT’S PLANS TO RE-POSSES HOUSE LOTS:

Residents of Linden are also expressing deep concern over the seeming halt to the allocation of unencumbered house lots in Region 10, as well as to the moves to repossess house lots from residents of this community, by the Government.

The PNCR calls on the Jagdeo PPP/C Administration to end this practice since it will result in the dispossession of the already dispossessed.

CONCLUSION:

In closing, let me reiterate that, as the Chairman of the RDC of Region #10, my main focus for 2008 will be to address the issues of:

1. Efficiency, or the cost effective execution of the work programme set to complete the projects outlined in our 2008 Budget.

2. Value for money, which will address the core issue of taxpayers receiving the best of both services and facilities that are to be provided from the efforts of the RDC through its Regional Administration.

3. Accountability, which also encompasses the issues of transparency, corruption and equity in the award and execution of contracts.

4. To work to ensure that, as the elected representative of the people, we continue to represent our constituency, struggle to end the PPP/C manipulation and domination of the Region at the administrative level and to have a more meaningful role in the management of the Region.

These are the concerns which we will be addressing at the level of the RDC in Region #10 for 2008, and we will continue to ensure that the residents, who have elected us to represent them, enjoy the best representation that we can possibly provide, as well as to ensure that any and all issues of concern that may affect them are ventilated in the appropriate fora and in a timely manner.

Chairman
Regional Democratic Council
Region #10
Tuesday 22 January 2008.