Akeem Peter heads new park­ing me­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee

Stabroek News - - NEWS -

A new ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee was elected on Mon­day by the Mayor and City Coun­cil­lors to rene­go­ti­ate the metered park­ing con­tract with Smart City So­lu­tions (SCS).

To date it is un­clear whether SCS is amenable to any rene­go­ti­a­tion. It has not been heard from pub­licly for months.

The com­mit­tee com­prises seven coun­cil­lors, six of whom are from APNU and one from Team Ben­schop for Mayor. The new com­mit­tee will be headed by APNU Coun­cil­lor Akeem Peter, with fel­low Coun­cil­lor Noelle Chow Chee as the vicechair­man. Other mem­bers of the com­mit­tee in­clude vet­eran Coun­cil­lor Os­car Clarke, APNU Coun­cil­lors Ivelaw Henry, He­ston Bost­wick, James Sa­muels, and Jameel Ras­sul from Team Ben­schop for Mayor. PPP/C Coun­cil­lor Bishram Kup­pen was also nom­i­nated dur­ing the process, but de­clined the nom­i­na­tion. A nom­i­na­tion was also made for Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikar­ran, but due to his ab­sence at Mon­day’s sit­ting, the nom­i­na­tion was not ac­cepted.

Fifteen coun­cil­lors voted for the com­mit­tee, with Kup­pen vot­ing against the nom­i­na­tions while APNU Coun­cil­lors Al­fred Men­tore and Roop­nar­ine Per­saud, and Team Le­gacy’s Malcolm Fer­reira ab­stained.

At the con­clu­sion of vot­ing, Town Clerk Roys­ton King an­nounced that four names from mem­bers of the pub­lic had been sub­mit­ted to his of­fice. While he did not dis­close the names of the in­di­vid­u­als, he stated that they are pro­fes­sion­als in the fields of en­gi­neer­ing, law and ac­coun­tancy. The names are ex­pected to be cir­cu­lated among the coun­cil­lors, and they will elect two of the four in­di­vid­u­als at the next statu­tory meet­ing.

Mean­while, Mayor Pa­tri­cia ChaseGreen said that the new com­mit­tee will func­tion un­der the Terms of Ref­er­ence used by the pre­vi­ous com­mit­tee which had been chaired by Coun­cil­lor Fer­reira. She noted that if the need arises for more scope to be added to the terms of ref­er­ence, the com­mit­tee should rec­om­mend it and the coun­cil will vote on it.

Ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the pres­sure group, Move­ment Against Park­ing Me­ters, Don Singh on Mon­day said that they are “once again dis­mayed and dis­gusted that the Mayor and the Town Clerk con­tinue to op­press the cit­i­zenry of Ge­orge­town with this far­ci­cal and il­le­gal park­ing me­ter con­tract with Smart City So­lu­tions.”

Singh added that they are also dis­ap­pointed that Clarke, a sig­na­tory “to the orig­i­nal con­tract and a mem­ber of the ‘due dili­gence’ team to Mex­ico, is once again in the mix. This is an ob­vi­ous con­flict of in­ter­est.”

He stressed that the “park­ing me­ter fi­asco has be­come ab­surd and we dare say, an ab­so­lute joke of which the ci­ti­zens are not laugh­ing,” while stat­ing that the group fore­sees no new out­come from this com­mit­tee, since the pre­vi­ous com­mit­tee had been de­nied ac­cess to vi­tal fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion by SCS.

At a statu­tory meet­ing in Septem­ber it was de­cided that the nine-mem­ber com­mit­tee would com­prise of seven coun­cil­lors, and two mem­bers of the pub­lic who will have vot­ing rights. King and City Trea­surer Ron McCal­man will also sit on the com­mit­tee, but only in an ad­vi­sory ca­pac­ity.

This will be the sec­ond com­mit­tee the coun­cil has set up to rene­go­ti­ate its con­tro­ver­sial con­tract with SCS. The first was put to­gether af­ter the metered park­ing project had been sus­pended by cen­tral govern­ment in March. The team was specif­i­cally tasked with ad­dress­ing five ar­eas of con­cern iden­ti­fied by cen­tral govern­ment. Th­ese in­cluded the un­equal terms of the con­tract, which dis­pro­por­tion­ately favoured the con­ces­sion­aire; the fees, which were too bur­den­some; the very high penal­ties for non-com­pli­ance; and the in­clu­sion of gazetted pub­lic roads and cer­tain ar­eas around schools and hospi­tals.

Af­ter three months of stake­holder en­gage­ments, the com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted its re­port to Mayor Pa­tri­cia Chase-Green and Town Clerk King on Au­gust 2.

At an ex­tra­or­di­nary statu­tory meet­ing on Septem­ber 7, a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors, 13 out of 25, voted to con­tinue the metered park­ing sys­tem with SCS, pend­ing a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial con­tract with the com­pany.

In rene­go­ti­at­ing the con­tract, the new com­mit­tee will have to ad­dress and re­solve all of the points/find­ings listed in the re­port of the last rene­go­ti­a­tion com­mit­tee.

As the Coun­cil voted to rene­go­ti­ate the con­tract with the SCS, the com­mit­tee will have to host pub­lic meet­ings to ap­praise all stake­hold­ers of the find­ings of the com­mit­tee, and to ar­tic­u­late and fur­ther dis­cuss the ar­eas which should be in­cluded in the new con­tract; be­ing pro­vided with any and all doc­u­ments by SCS Inc. within rea­son­able time when re­quested, in­clud­ing those of a fi­nan­cial na­ture; as well as, be­ing pro­vided with rel­e­vant doc­u­ments, such as a fea­si­bil­ity study, busi­ness plan and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment. The com­mit­tee also called for due dili­gence to be ob­served, as it re­lated to any new agree­ment or amend­ment to any ex­ist­ing agree­ment, and the com­ple­tion of an in­de­pen­dent “Project Anal­y­sis” to of­fer proper guid­ance.

In the re­port sub­mit­ted by Fer­reira and his team, it was re­vealed that the con­ces­sion­aire, SCS had vastly in­flated es­ti­mates of its cap­i­tal in­vest­ment. The re­port stated that SCS had re­fused to pro­vide doc­u­men­ta­tion.

The re­port says con­sul­ta­tions with an in­de­pen­dent ac­coun­tant raised red flags about the verac­ity of sev­eral of SCS’s claims. It notes that the ac­coun­tant found that there was more than a 25% vari­ance in SCS’s es­ti­ma­tion of its orig­i­nal op­er­a­tions to­tal and the ac­coun­tant’s to­tal. The vari­ance is in ex­cess of $600 mil­lion.

Ac­coun­tant Lancelot Atherly found that the to­tal was ad­justed for ap­par­ent ex­ces­sive es­ti­mates. He fur­ther ex­plained that 25% is a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate and that the ac­tual vari­ance could be as much as 50%, since quite a lot of fig­ures are over­stated, and some as­pects seem vastly over­stated, bloated and in­flated.

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