Cabinet at its most recent meeting on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 concluded that it was in receipt of sufficient information to advise that the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) suspend the parking meter project for a period of 90 days.
Addressing the media at the post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency today, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, said that Cabinet expects that when its decision is formally communicated to the council that it will be taken on board.
“Cabinet has given its advice, and we expect that the advice will be heeded by the City Council,” the minister said.
Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan was requested by Cabinet to communicate the decision taken, including the issues of concerns raised to the council. “I cannot say to you precisely when this will be done, but I can say to you at the urging of the government, it will be done very shortly,” Minister Harmon said on the issue of the communiqué between the Communities Minister and the M&CC.
Citizens protesting the parking meters project in the City
“My understanding is that the City Council has to have a meeting where the advice of Cabinet is given to it and it is ratified and they move forward with that, and thereafter they will then contact, the Smart City Solutions,” the minister explained.
The minister also said that if the government’s signals to have the parking meter project suspended are not heeded, the contract may possibly be revoked. “[If it is not done] well of course there are two options, one; the suspension, of course the other one is revocation and if the intervention of a party under what may be termed ‘force majeure’ exists then certainly the parties to the contract can understand what needs to be done and the contract spells out itself in clear terms what force majeure is and what needs to be done,” the minister said.
As it relates to compensation for the suspension or possible revocation of the project, Minister Harmon noted that these are legal issues which would be dealt with. “The government has made its concern very clear, and therefore whether there is to be compensation or not that is a matter to be addressed during the process. My understanding of the process is that if a party does not agree with the position, then they go to arbitration, and in the arbitration these issues are dealt with, but the signal sent by government is a strong enough one, that the parties to the contract understand that this is something that needs to be done,” the minister said.
The parking meter project being executed by the Georgetown M&CC through Smart City Solutions was among several new initiatives introduced by the council to raise revenue to better manage the affairs of the city. The exorbitant fees and lack of transparency in the drawing up of the contract between Smart City Solutions and the Council however had led to calls by members of civil society for the revocation of the project. Over the past weeks, in response to the public outcry, Cabinet has been meeting with stakeholders as part of making a judgment on the project.
During the press briefing today, the minister highlighted several issues as the grounds for Cabinet’s decision to suspend the project.
The minister highlighted concerns such as the installation of parking meters on streets that were within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the use by the Smart City company of parapets that were not under the jurisdiction of the M&CC.
Other concerns raised by Cabinet pertained to the cost of parking in the jurisdiction of Georgetown, the provision for the parking of police, army and fire service vehicles and ambulances in areas in Georgetown, the financial arrangement of the project and the need for greater involvement of stakeholders in the process, Minister Harmon said.