AN assessment report conducted in July on the management of all resources of the Castries Constituencies Council (CCC) has painted a rather bleak picture of the institution, despite highlighting several positive areas under the stewardship of Mayor Peterson Francis.
The assessment, which threw a wrench in the relationship between the then Local Government Minister Fortuna Belrose and Francis, was five weeks in the making.
Belrose, who is no longer responsible for Local Government — thanks to a recent Cabinet shuffle — has denied that the tension that existed between her and Francis was the cause of her removal from her former ministerial portfolio.
She tried hard to downplay the effect of the rift, but it again became pronounced on the announcement that an assessment into the operations of the CCC would be undertaken.
Francis was not too pleased on learning of the assessment — an aim of which was to advise the ministry as to whether the CCC, seen as a revenue generating entity, exhibits sound corporate characteristics that lead to effectiveness, efficiency, productivity and financial stability.
The idea was that the assessment would serve to assist the CCC to strive towards achieving its goals and to set a template for all of the townships where other Constituency Councils operate.
It is unclear whether the Ministry, meaning Local Government, was able to assess the overall performance of the CCC in undertaking its mandate during the August 2016 – September 2018 period under Mayor Francis.
However, at the end of the review/assessment period, the consultant was to identify current areas of greatest financial risk and to assess whether the Board of the CCC was managing these areas effectively, handing out several recommendations and suggestions in the process in charting the way forward.
But prior to the suggestions and recommendations, the consultant found that Mayor Francis “exhibits a radical management style that seems to work for him, as he appears to have a great passion for the job.”
The consultant in fact noted that the mayor must be commended for his efforts in modernizing the CCC with the introduction of a Human Resource Manager, a Financial Controller and a change in designation from Town Clerk to Chief Executive Officer. But she pointed out that greater attention needs to be paid to financial risks with regard to capital-intensive projects undertaken.
Consultant Francis gave kudos to Mayor Francis — for example, stating that under his stewardship several positive results manifested themselves and all due to his innovative actions and acumen, like how some of the cost-cutting measures he undertook (like plugging loopholes where the CCC was losing funds).
The consultant at one point brought up the subvention from Central Government of $4 million to cover the operating cost of the CCC, which in reality is $6.5 million.
The good news was that under Mayor Francis’ watch the CCC had not asked government for any more money to cover the shortfall.
But the consultant’s findings were not all rosy, as she also found that the Director of Special Initiatives, an officer of the CCC who holds several portfolios, indicated being unaware of any established criteria or process for the awarding of contracts. – strange, because, according to the consultant, when proposals for work are submitted to the mayor’s office, they are forwarded to the Director for the preparation of contracts.
The consultant also made mention of a stifling recruitment process in the CCC due to political interference, with the person in charge of that department admitting to having little control over that process.
Then there is the Constabulary (City Police) being mired in systemic problems, though well-intentioned and welcomed by the public. Among those problems one stands out — the outdated Standing Orders of 1960 that constables have to go by, but which does not relate to or address the type of work the new City Police now undertake.
The consultant highlighted some interesting remarks by some councilors when certain questions were posed to them. They praised many fine points about the CCC and the mayor, but were critical in their assessment of the CCC and the mayor as well.