Parking meter contract exposedThe ‘secret’ parking meter contract is a secret no more. And with the many concessions and monopolistic clauses it features in Smart City Solution Incorporated’s favour, the contract shows that only three City Hall officials from the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Town Clerk, ratified the document.The signatories are Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase Green; Town Clerk Royston King; Chairman of City Hall’s Finance Committee, Oscar Clarke and Clarke’s predecessor, Councillor Junior Garrett. On the contract, which was seen by Guyana Times, three other spaces intended for Councillors to sign as witnesses were left blank.The signatories to the original contractThere has been widespread public outcry against the Parking Meter Project over the past months with a movement staging protest actions against the “draconian” costs and penalties of the project. Among the shocking clauses in the contract are:• the company can extend the duration of the 49-year agreement for an additional 49 years under the same terms of the current agreement subject to the approval of the city. The company was given the option to operate in Guyana for almost one century• The contract’s ‘terror clause’ protects Smart City Solutions, as it includes a clause intended to scare the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) at the prospect of terminating the agreement. Further, the Council would have to pay the reasonable out-of-pocket and documented costs and expenses incurred by the company as a direct result of such termination, cancellation, rescinding or voiding; the M&CC has been barred by the agreement from terminating the contract for its own convenience.• Under Article 12 – Taxes – of the unamended contract, the M&CC also has to support and in fact facilitate SCSI in any move it makes to secure exemption from income, corporation, and capital gains taxes, as well as Value Added Tax (VAT) and all other levies and taxes.The signatories to the original contract• SCSI is also granted the power to establish distinct and multiple geographic parking zones within the territory of the city which shall be subject to distinct metered parking fees and parking fines.• There is also a section which grants the company, at its own discretion, the option to develop, construct, operate and even maintain garaged parking operations either above ground or subterranean. Section 4.11, Garaged Parking, SCSI would “identify” to the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) any available land it wanted and submit plans.• According to Section 4.3, Other Parking Systems and Facilities, “the city will not operate and will neither permit the operation of paid public parking facilities nor the operation of any metered parking systems other than that of (SCSI).”Town Clerk Royston KingIt is unclear whether Councillors were asked to sign and had refused. What is clear is that the four officials nevertheless proceeded with ratifying the contract. SCSI Chairman Simon Mosheshvili and Director, Ifa Cush signed the contract on behalf of the company.PNC stalwart Oscar ClarkeThe four officials were dubbed the “Fantastic Four” after they embarked on trips to Mexico and Panama, funded by the company, to allegedly conduct due diligence checks on the parking meters the company had previously installed. However, these checks were performed after they signed the contract with SCSI.The City Council and outgoing Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan, reportedly did not sanction the trips, nor were they aware of them. The Deputy Mayor had insisted that a full council must discuss the deal, in keeping with the Council’s role. However, Chase Green has always denied the existence of a “Fantastic Four” faction which would sideline other Councillors when making decisions affecting Georgetown.“I don’t know of any group of four persons. I know we are Councillors and I am the chairperson for this Council,” Chase Green had said last year. “The contract is at the Town Clerk’s office. Anyone is free to request to look at it, nobody came forward to look at it, but you’re reading all sorts of things in the press.”Secret dealPatricia Chase GreenHowever, other Councillors have repeatedly complained about the secretive nature of the contract. Up to Friday, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Councillor Bishram Kuppen had stated that while the Mayor and the Town Clerk claim the contract is available for review, what they mean is that Councillors can go to the ‘secret’ office and view the contract.“We’re an elected council; we shouldn’t have to go to a secret office to view the contract. The contract has to be brought to the full council for review and that has never been done.“At no point in time has the contract been brought to the Council for review. They’re simply giving you points. And then eventually they brought an amendment which was not presented with the contract itself.”“Now does this make sense? You’re bringing an amendment to the Council to look at, but they have not seen the contract that they are about to amend. Now the amendments, we are not sure if they will end up in the amended contract. Because I’m seeing they are giving conflicting report,” the councilor had said.TermsThe Georgetown Parking Meter Concession Agreement between the City of Georgetown and SCSI grants sweeping concessions to the company to implement parking meters.The parking meter project has already attracted widespread condemnation and even mass protests in front of City Hall, on Regent Street. Among the various grievances of protesters are the burdensome penalties and harsh enforcement of the city by-laws governing parking meters.Additionally, a perusal of the contract shows that under Section 45.7, sub heading Other Enforcement Services, SCSI is allowed to step outside of enforcing the parking meter regulations. According to the original contract, SCSI could penalise motorists for double parking, using no parking zones to park and other parking infractions.Last year, Government-ordered reviews of the agreement by the Ministries of Legal Affairs and Finance had prompted moves to amend the terms.