The City of Freeport Council has a history of controversies. There have been infighting and also battles between CFC personnel and the Minister of Local Government.
Now it seems, Island Administrator Preston Cunningham, whose jurisdiction includes the Freeport Local Government District, and CFC Chief Councillor Kendal Culmer, are adversaries. In a recent meeting of the council, with Administrator Cunningham present in his capacity as the official who primarily records proceedings for the Central Government, there was a verbal confrontation with Culmer.
At issue was funding that was not used from the last fiscal year and was subsequently transferred from the CFC working current account. The situation begs an important question.
Why would funds be left over, when there are always matters to be dealt with that fall directly under the purview of the City of Freeport Council? This should never be the case. When the funds are not used, it points to the incapacity of the Council directive to coordinate the process of work to the extent of using the funds allocated.
Also, although an administrator cannot, based on the Local Government Act, direct councillors in the business of the council, he/she could give advice, reminders and suggestions. There should have been some communication that there were funds sitting on the account that needed to be utilized.
Certainly, knowing the condition of Freeport following Hurricane Matthew, there were reasons to legitimately use every penny on the current account. Clearly this did not happen and the correct process is indeed, to do a transfer if funds are still on the current account up to a certain point.
It is a bit of an indictment that the CFC found itself in such a situation. Councillors are thus advised to ensure that they digest the Local Government Act and come to a full understanding of their obligations to the designated jurisdiction and its residents. For emphasis, today, we publish a section of the Act that speaks to the essence of Local Government:
“Local Government in the Bahamas means authority devolved from the Central Government to elected bodies referred to as District Councils and Town Committees) to determine and execute specified functions within defined areas referred to as Local Government Districts. Some Local Government Districts are divided into Town Areas.
“Local Government involves the administration of functions and services on a local basis by locally elected authorities acting on their OWN INITIATIVE. Local Government is an actual transfer of authority, and not just a delegation of functions and powers. The authority is limited by legislation and is (only) SUBORDINATE TO THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT. Local Government derives its powers from the Central Government and its authority directly from the electors; therefore, it is responsible to both for its actions. Its elected District Councils and Town Committees are the means by which Local Government will provide services to every island and the citizens of each community and will permit NEEDED ACTION TO BE TAKEN PROMPTLY AND EFFICIENTLY.”