UNC repeat local govt complaints against PNM

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

St Augustine
MP Khadijah Ameen –

THE Opposition UNC has reiterated its claims that the PNM is undermining its local government corporations.

The claims were reiterated by UNC vice-chairman Khadijah Ameen and the chairmen of seven local government corporations the party controls.

The other seven are controlled by the PNM.

Ameen referred to a memo sent by the Rural Development and Local Government Ministry to the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC) that the contracts of a financial adviser and disaster management co-ordinator at the corporation could not be renewed due to insufficient funding.

Ameen asked, “Is the country bankrupt?”

She claimed that UNC-controlled local government corporations made requests to the ministry for funding since January and have received either no funding or minimal funding.

Ameen said this was not the case under the former UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) government from May 2010 to September 2015,

She added that local government councillors benefitted from allocations of $2,500 for rental of offices and a stipend of $1,000 for equipment for those offices.

Ameen said the PNM made no changes to those allocations since it returned to office in 2015.

She also claimed the PNM’s inability to deal with national issues has a trickle-down effect on local government.

Using crime as an example, Ameen claimed that local government employees request security, either from the police or municipal police before they undertake activities such as garbage collection, construction and clearing of water courses.

Her views were supported by the chairmen of UNC-controlled corporations.

SGRC chairman Kenwyn Phillip claimed that two councillors at the corporation, Neil Da Silva and Calvin Seecharan, have not been able to reoccupy their office spaces because the ministry has not released funding for them to pay their outstanding rent.

Addressing this matter in the House of Representatives on April 26, Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi said the recent eviction of councillors of the SGRC from their offices for non-payment of rent was the result of poor management by the corporation and not because his ministry did not release funding to the corporation.

“The corporation sits on over $1 million of unspent balances. The corporation has received 48 per cent of its annual allocation releases and has requested its other 52 per cent.”

The SGRC, he said, “is well-stocked with money. Management is critical.”

He said the ministry had held a recent retreat with the CEOs of all 14 local government corporations.

Up to now, he said, “Not a single request or urgency flag was put up in respect of this matter.”

Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) chairman Ryan Rampersad claimed the corporation had not received funding with respect to water-trucking services for its burgesses.

He said the CTTRC has two trucks to serve 12 communities under its jurisdiction.

Rampersad also criticised Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales for not expanding water lines in the region to give more people access to water.

Penal/Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) chairman Gowtam Maharaj expressed concern about river courses in the region not being cleared ahead of the rainy season.

“People are trembling in fear.”

Maharaj asked if Government has allocated any funding towards clearing river courses in the area.

Siparia Mayor Doodnath Mayhroo lamented a shooting incident in Siparia earlier in the day in which one person was killed and another person was injured.

He said Siparia used to be one of the safest places in southwest Trinidad.

“Nowhere is safe.”

Mayhroo also claimed Government was not undertaking any infrastructural works in Siparia and environs.

Chaguanas Mayor Faaiq Mohammed, Princes Town Regional Corporation chairman Gowrie Roopnarine and Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation chairman Raymond Cozier expressed similar views with respect to matters affecting their corporations.