Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Regional System
(Aired 28 October 2003)

    The new constitution of Guyana tells us at article 8 that and I quote "this constitution is the supreme law of Guyana and, if any other law is inconsistent with it, that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void."

    Article 9 of the constitution 1 tells us and I quote again "sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by or under this constitution"

    In article 13 we see and I quote "the principle objective of the political system is to establish an inclusive democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision making process of the state with particular emphasis on those areas of decision- making that directly affect their well being".

     In every part of this constitution the words every citizen is entitled to this or to that is specified; every citizen ladies and gentlemen not PPP supporters or PNC supporters but every citizen is entitled to protection and rights under our constitution.

   In the part of the constitution which deals with local democracy. Article 71 of the constitution tells us that (1) "local government is a vital aspect of democracy and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live and (2) for this purpose Parliament shall provide for the institution of a country wide system of local government through the establishment of Organs of local democratic power as an integral part of the political organisation of the state".

    Article 74 (1) tells us that "it shall be the primary duty of local democratic organs to ensure in accordance with the law the efficient management and development of their areas and to provide leadership by example"

     I live in Region 3 West Demerara Essequibo Islands ladies and gentlemen, so I must start there; how do all of these lofty ideals enshrined in our constitution express themselves in region 3? They don't!!

    Region 3 is made up of 14 Neighbourhood Councils and the shenanigans that go on in these neighbourhood councils would make the BLESSED mother Theresa blaspheme.

   And the reason is simple; the Regional Democratic council of Region 3 is rotten to the core. The Neighbourhood Councils knowing that they will ultimately have no say in how the region is run, have given up, I questioned members of my regional council as to how their budget is monitored, how the money is spent, how the contracts are given out, how the regional tender board is constituted and I was unable to get any real answers, the Regional Chairman and the Regional Executive Officer run everything, believe it or not the Regional Chairman [a full time employee of the region who receives a salary to function in this position to carry out the mandate and be responsible to his council] incredibly is also the chairman of the Budget Finance and Planning committee; in other words he is supervising himself and doing it badly since he hardly reports to it, in meeting after minute of the council he submits meaningless verbal reports on financial matters but they are not attached to the minutes and the PNC members of the council do nothing in protest.

      The councillors generally don't know, what the annual budget for the Region is, they do not know the mechanism of how the contracts are awarded, to whom the contracts are awarded and why; there is no real accountability at all ladies and gentlemen, the agenda in this regional council chairman is to obscure the situation rather than to consult and to clarify it.

    The PNC councillors have to pull their socks up, the PNC are the opposition they must appoint people to these councils who will give their best notwithstanding that the councillors do not get paid, and raise hell when they see something wrong, that is how they will ensure that some part of the regional pie goes to their brothers and therefore to themselves. When questioned the regional councillors have told me that the REO is responsible for this and for that, for paying this person or that person and that and they are not exactly sure how or why this is, well it is so because you allow it councillors, the REO executes the agenda of the regional council, nothing else, he is not supposed to act in an autonomous way.

    Every Regional Council must of necessity have a tender board committee and a budget and finance committee and these committees must comprise members in keeping with the PPP/PNC/other parties composition of the Regional Council, it is the constitution speaking; that the composition of the councils must be structured so as to involve as diverse a group as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live.

    I am serious ladies and gentlemen, thieves will operate at a level which the watchmen allow them to operate, and if the watchman is sleeping then the thieves will take it all.

    The budget for region 3 for 2003 was 1.529 Billion dollars; the region allocates 3 million a year to each of the 14 neighbourhood councils to carry out their routine functions, that's a total of 42 million. Where does the other 1.487 billion go? for two years I have been trying to find out and the regional councillors cannot tell me, they basically do not know how the money is spent and it is clear to me that they are being deliberately kept in the dark as to how these projects are progressing, leading to gross corruption and possibly fraud, so I was forced to rely on the Auditor General's report which incidentally has not surfaced for 2002, Auditor General Mr. Goolosarran has left on overseas assignment and it was a great loss to this nation ladies and gentlemen, his acting successor is clearly not as diligent as Mr. Goolasrran was, and we must ask why!

   So we have to rely on the 2001 audit of Region 3, I will not go into details ladies and gentlemen but it is enough to make anyone sick, contract splitting, awarding contracts to the lowest bidder then topping up the contract after the work has started so that the job ended up costing more than the highest bidder, NIS irregularities, bank account irregularities which can lead to fraud, in one case a road at Patentia was not constructed even though it formed part of 34 million dollar estimate for road repairs in the region in 2001, in this case the region awarded monies earmarked for Patentia-la Harmonie to do cemetery road Zeelugt, thereby breaking the law, since the law is that the Region must obtain permission to change its allocated budget to drop one contract and put in another; in this one case; since I am looking specifically at it, and to give you an idea of what goes on; the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder for the sum of 1.8 million dollars, this was more or less in the ball park with the estimate of the regional engineer for $2 million, but at the end of this contract the contractor was paid a total of 4.735 million after three unauthorised revisions of the contract. In this same year when the road at Patentia-la Harmonie was not done there was also unauthorised work done on the old road at Parika which was not in the estimates.

      That is how we want peace in this country, we take away money from Patentia-La Harmonie where predominately Afro Guyanese live, and give it to Zeelugt where predominantly Indo Guyanese live, and not one PNC member of this regional council said a word in protest. I did not set out to look for this incidence of discrimination ladies and gentlemen, in fact I set out to cuss up the PNC councillors of Region 3 for letting us all down, but here it is again, as it is all around us, this ugly phenomenon of marginalisation and discrimination.

   The Chairman of this region 3 is one Dookie a schoolteacher who assumed that position in 2001 after the election, prior to that Mr. Dookie lived at Hogg Island where he was a school teacher; this is Mr. Dookie's house at Uitvulgt today. 

   So ladies and gentlemen the PNC councillors can keep sleeping, whilst the PPP cats drink out all of the milk.