Local Government Commission Bill – Bill No. 13/20121711 07 Aug, 2013
LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMISSION BILL – Bill No. 13/2012
Mr. G. Persaud: I wish to beg that the Bill intituled Local Government Commission Bill 2012 No. 13 of 2012 standing in my name be read for a second time. The Local Government Commission Bill is a direct response to article 78A of our Constitution of Guyana. This Bill in itself seeks to establish a commission to deal with human resource issues and other issues involving the local democratic organs as specified in the Constitution.
Clause 3 of the Bill establishes the Commission and provides guidance as to how this Commission should be established. The original Bill proposed that we should have a six-member commission, three members to be appointed by the President in accordance with his own deliberate judgement, two members to be appointed by the President after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, one member is to be appointed by the President after consultation by the Minister with local democratic organs. This was the agreement that came out of the joint task force. However, the Special Select Committee voted on this clause and came up with what is documented in the report, changing of the number from six to seven, retaining the three members to be appointed in accordance with the judgement of His Excellency the President. Increasing from two to three, the number of members to be appointed by His Excellency after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, removing the one representative from the local democratic organs and replacing that one to a member appointed by the Committee on Appointment of the Parliament. This obviously is a position that the Government feels will not help us to have the quality of commission, having the integrity and having the kinds of public support necessary.
Clause 7 of the Bill seeks to provide clear guidelines as to how Members, once appointed, can be terminated and it reads including if the Member become of unsound mind, is convicted in the court of law for a criminal offence or is guilty of conduct in consistent with membership of the commission.
This is very clear. That is what is stated in the Bill. It is stated that such person should be removed by the His Excellency the President. Here, again, we sought to impose, at the level of the Committee, that no one, no member, although found guilty or deemed of unsound mind by the medical authorities, cannot be removed as a member of the Commission without the approval of the Leader of the Opposition and the President. This, although we have this similar clause in all the other commissions that exist in this country, we do not have the removal as being that of having the approval of the Leader of the Opposition because the reasons or the grounds for removal are clearly spelt out in the legal framework.
Clause 13 provides for the functions of the Commission. What was in the Bill was extracted, word for word, from the Constitution, yet the Committee sought to amend that, with regard to the roles and functions. Direct extracts from the Constitutions, verbatim, we sought to insert into that, although we were shown that this is what was taken from article 78(A), lock, stock and barrel, if it is liked that way. We saw to interject into that, great brilliance coming from no other than the renowned leadership of the Hon. Member, attorney-at- law, Mr. Basil Williams.
Further, clause 13 sought to provide to the Commission that role, power and authority to oversee the employment, dismissal, remunerations and other related matters of staffing. We sought to modify that, using our majority at the level of the Committee, and we talked about empowering the local authorities; we talked about giving them the greater autonomy; we talked about enhancing local democracy and taking democracy to the grass roots. This is what we did. We said that every appointment must be made by the Commission. That is what we said. I ask us…, although I cautioned my Comrades on the Committee. I said, “Tell me what will happen if a sluice attendant walks off this job today. When will that commission appoint someone? Who will open that koker?” [Mr. B. Williams: …local democratic organ. You have to read it.] I am saying what it is here, Sir. It also states that the charwoman has to be appointed by the commission. It also states every single person. This is what exists presently.
Presently the local authorities are allowed and permitted to appoint these categories of staffing. But, as it is known, we love them so much. We want to give them so much devolution of power so we bring it all here. The Bill clearly states that with these people, without any ambiguity, the Commission will oversee these appointments. We believe it is semantics so we just decided to remove the word “oversee” and we insert our own bit.
There is another bit that we did not pay attention to. We stated, now, in this new Bill - we have amended this Bill - and we bring it here to say that the commission now will fix the remuneration for the staff across the local authority organs. This shows great lack of understanding of what happens. Each local authority is an entity by itself; it has its own uniqueness. The basic premises on which staff are remunerated in these 71 entities are based on their ability to pay. When we are going to say that we are going to fix across the board salary, I shudder to know what would happen.
Many of these local authorities will not be able to meet their wages bill much less to provide services to the people up there. All that I am raising here is rehashing what I would have raised umpteen times at the level of subcommittee. I have to cause all of us to be aware so that when I would have walked off from my office and whoever would be coming on board that person would not say I did not tell him or her…As my good friend, the Hon. Member Mr. Nagamootoo, if he had left a note for me during his one year maybe I would have been able to read those things and take them into consideration today.
We have come a far way. We have the Local Government Commission Bill – Bill No. 13/2012 in front of us. There are a number of clauses in this Local Government Commission Bill that will make life at local government far simpler than it is today. It will give greater objectivity to the whole bit of human resource management, but I urge us all as we consider this Bill, and at the level of second reading, that we please ensure that with clause 4 we revert to what was proposed in the Bill, what came out of the joint task force. Similarly, to clause 13, I ask us to pay careful attention.
Mr. Speaker: We have an amendment proposed by the Hon. Minister Mr. Whittaker for clause 4
Mr. G. Persaud: Yes Sir. Clause 4, clause 7 and clause 13 I ask that we pay careful attention.
Mr. Speaker: There is only one amendment before us pertaining to clause 4. We have no other amendments, but it is if you persuade them, your colleagues, to include the others.
Mr. G. Persaud: I therefore commend this Bill for second reading.
Mr. G. Persaud (replying): Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Let me commend all the Hon. Members who would have spoken on the Local Government Commission Bill 2012, Bill No. 13 of 2012. We have come this far in this journey and I am certain that we all recognise that there are arguments, there are discourses and there are issues that would still need to engage our attention. But we can all comfort ourselves that, at this junction, we would have worked and we would have worked towards achieving certain objectives.
In keeping with the tone of the discourse, being conscious of the other businesses of the House, I wish, therefore, to request that the Bill be read a second time, taking into consideration, the amendment to clause 4, as proposed by Hon. Minister Whittaker.
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