Georgetown, GINA, January 10, 2014
The Ministry of Local Government has identified several important issues impeding quantitative services at the level of Municipalities, the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) that must be addressed towards ensuring better delivery of services to citizens in 2014.
The plans for the local entities were outlined today at a press conference at the Ministry’s Kingston office, by Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Ganga Persaud, Minister in the Ministry Norman Whittaker and Permanent Secretary Collin Croal.
Going into 2014, the ministry said it would like to see more interaction between the municipalities and residents within. Minister Whittaker noted that none of the municipalities performed to expectation in 2013, and none realised the budgeted amount of revenue.
He pointed out that whilst this was due to several reasons, including lack of effort by councillors, he also cited the attitude of some residents towards paying.
He attributed this to a ‘disconnect’ between the councils and residents and recommended that there be more interaction between councillors and citizens, so that there is better understanding of the role and responsibilities of the councils and the projects that they are executing, Whittaker said.
He pointed out that a community more conscious of its responsibility will work for, instead of against the council.
The Ministry would also like to see in 2014 all six municipalities having a debt collection unit with proactive persons reaching out, in humane ways to those owing outstanding debts, and impressing on them the challenges faced by the ministry and the need for the revenue.
Minister Whittaker noted that the municipalities can use the very staff in the councils who are under utilised and could reward them on a basis of commission based on the debts they bring in.
Also put forward was the need for the municipalities to move more aggressively in 2014 with regards to re-evaluation, and re-classification of buildings. Minister Whittaker noted that several properties’ existing rates and taxes are being paid based on parameters established years ago, and the result is a loss to the municipalities.
He pointed out too, that buildings previously classified as residential need to be re-classified for the reasons that they now operate businesses.
Among other visions for the municipalities is the optimising of the use of the market tarmacs, training outside of those areas covered for municipal workers in 2013, for instance targeting constabularies and other enforcement officers, and the need for greater expenditure control and record management.
The ministry’s vision for the NDCs centers on enhancing their revenue base, and also working with all 65 within the first quarter of 2014 to establish the 17 district tender boards, which would deal with procurement of goods and services within the limit of $100,000 to $249, 999, Minister Persaud said.
He said too that the computerisation of the NDCs will also be focused on record keeping generally and on personnel records.
Computerised accounting within the NDCs is also a focus, because it comes in line with the general implementation of the Fiscal Transfer Act, he noted.
The ministry will also work with the NDCs in 2014 to enhance community relations, and expand their regional solid waste programme. Officers at this level will also benefit from training.
The Ministry’s idea is to work to see more transparency and accountability and timely preparation of minutes at the level of the RDC, Croal said.
He also highlighted the RDC’s role in the regional tender board, in the implementation of the district tender boards and in the local government election as those that would see engagement between the ministry and the RDCs in 2014.