By Ramona LuthiThe Regional Vice Chairman of Region Three — Essequibo Islands/West Demerara, Sheik Ayube, is accusing the Regional Executive Officer (REO) of the Local Government Department (LGD), Shameer Shahid, of acting out of his jurisdiction, of intentionally blocking Opposition- run Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) from fulfilling their mandates, and of not paying staff.“…any time that the NDCs attempt to execute their programme or their spending, they find they are being stymied by the Local Government Department. The Head of the Local Government Department (is Shameer Shahid],” Ayube told Guyana Times in a telephone interview.Region Three Regional Vice Chairman Sheik AyubeAyube, Head of the Local Government Committee, explained that according to the law, all of the NDCs countrywide are to be guided by Chapter 28:02 of the Local Government Act, which provides direction and specifications on how the entity should operate.Ayube said that, every year, each NDC would budget “for what they would normally want for the year”; and once that budget is passed, the entity has “all rights to execute that Budget, without any interference (from) the Local Government Department of the RDC [Regional Democratic Council]”.However, he noted, over the past two years, this has been incredibly difficult because of Shahid. The most recent incident, he said, relates to two labourers attached to the Uitvlugt NDC being left unpaid.“I spoke to the REO on Wednesday last, and he showed me vouchers that were prepared to clear these people for January month. Lo and behold, the local Government Department is saying to the Overseer of the Tuschen/Uitvlugt NDC that he cannot find any document as it relates to these payments. I contacted back the REO’s secretary, and she confirmed that the document was sent to the Local Government Department,” Ayube detailed.He highlighted other incidents wherein he accused Shahid of abusing his power: “I would like to give you some examples. The Wakenaam NDC had budgeted to buy long boots for the Council of that specific NDC. They went ahead and purchased the long boots, (and) for a number of months, the Head of the Local Government Department did not pass that voucher,” he explained, while noting that it is protocol for the vouchers to be signed off by the RDC’s Local Government Department.The Regional Vice Chairman relayed that the explanation provided by Shahid for not signing the vouchers was that “long boots is only purchased for the work committee.”“We gotta understand that Wakenaam is an (agricultural) area and each council comes from a respective constituency, so they are expected to perform their duties in an effective way by visiting the area,” Ayube explained.“He [Shahid] is infringing on the rights of the NDC to operate independently,” Ayube sternly asserted.He noted that the REO has not been signing off on vouchers for council members to travel to attend statutory meetings.“The NDC would budget for travelling for their respective councillors (from) Wakenaam and Leguan. Again, over a long period of time, he’s not signing the vouchers for the people to [receive their funds] for travelling. He’s impeding on the attendance of the meeting. Again, he is acting out of his jurisdiction,” Ayube explained.This publication was told that within the regions there is a “CRIP (Community Roads Improvement Project)” programme, employment and supervision of which fall directly under the NDC.The NDC is required to report to the Region on the performance of each staff member on a monthly basis. However, Ayube claims that the REO has again stepped out of his jurisdiction.“What happened in Region 3, the DREO [Deputy REO] within the Local Government Department went into these NDCs and conducted interviews [for] who should be employed and who should not be employed. Now they are acting out of their jurisdiction. They have no right. That is the right of the NDC to employ, (to) interview,” the Regional Vice Chairman said.In addition, Guyana Times was told that as of late, the RDC, at the behest of Shahid, has imposed a condition wherein employees who are attached to the “CRIP” programme within NDCs cannot work elsewhere.“These CRIP people work 4 times a week and their monies are limited, so they seek employment other ways. They [RDC] have no jurisdiction, no right, no authority to impose that (condition) on the NDC.”According to Ayube, the issue has been reported several times at the level of the RDC statutory meeting, but nothing has been done to rectify the situation.Ayube also said he has observed that only the NDCs run by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are apparently being hassled by Shahid.“I’m of the opinion that this is a planned something, because…in Region 3, most of the NDCs are run by the PPP/C. I think something has been put in place to allow the NDC to look bad where the NDC is not the contributing factor to most of these things that are happening out there… Everything is being stymied, everything is set to make [the PPP NDC] look bad, at the Local Government Department of the RDC,” he posited.Ayube is calling on Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan to intervene and have the matter rectified as soon as possible.“I’m calling on the Minister to put things right!” he declared.Efforts made by this publication to contact Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, and Regional Executive Officer of the Local Government Department, Shameer Shahid, proved futile.
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