Biman attacks ‘revamp plans’

National Federation Party leader Dr Biman Prasad Picture: FT FILE/RAMA

THE National Federation Party says ratepayers and citizens in the municipalities deserve democracy and not dictatorship.

Party leader Professor Biman Prasad claimed Local Government Minister Premila Kumar’s plan to appoint a team of special administrators to run municipal councils was tantamount to turning municipal administration into dictatorial regimes.

Prof Prasad was responding to a report on Page 3 of The Fiji Times on Monday where Ms Kumar revealed her ministry’s plan to appoint a team of special administrators, calling it a revamp of councils.

“In January, minister Kumar claimed that reforms were needed like reviewing Local Government Act before elections are held,” he said.

“Wasn’t a committee looking at the Act for the last three years as revealed in Parliament by her predecessor Parveen Kumar?

“It is clear now that her version of reforms is to appoint special administrators, similar to the Sugar Cane Growers Council where non-representatives of canegrowers have been appointed, making the SCGC dysfunctional and a toothless tiger.

“We can foresee appointments of FijiFirst supporters and wellwishers.

“These unelected personnel will determine the use of rates with ratepayers having no say whatsoever in how their money is being used,” he claimed.

“Already, the special administrators and chief executive officers of municipal bodies are toothless tigers and admit they are powerless to make decisions even on matters concerning welfare of their workers in terms of negotiating collective agreements and wage rise,” he claimed.

“This is because the decisions are made by the ministry and we know that many issues are pending because the ministry is sitting on the matter. This will worsen under minister Kumar’s plan.”

He claimed it was wrong of the minister and others to keep referring to municipal bodies as councils under the current administration because the Local Government Act clearly defines what constitutes a council.

Prof Prasad said the Local Government Act (Section II Section 9) defines the composition of a council as: “The council of every municipality shall consist of such number of councillors as the Electoral Commission may from time to time determine.

“The Act also says elections of councils should be held every three years. Therefore, special administrators who are under direct control of the minister do not constitute a council.

“About two years ago in a Times/Tebbutt poll on whether mayors or administrators should run councils, 68 per cent preferred mayors.

“The fact that 68 per cent of our people want an elected mayor instead of an administrator to run the affairs of a municipality is concrete evidence of the need to allow the ratepayers and citizens their right to elect their representatives so that they are accountable to them.

“This right has been denied since the dissolution of councils in 2009.

“The ratepayers have no right and voice in determining how their rates and other fees and charges levied by municipalities are used.

“This is unacceptable.”

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