…as current, former employees testifyBy Rupadai SeenaraineCurrent and former employees of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) appeared in their numbers at the Critchlow Labour College on Monday to testify on the first day of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that was launched into the non-payment of benefits and issues surrounding other financial resources at City Hall.An employee of City Hall testifying at the CoI on Monday. Also in photo is Justice Cecil KennardHeaded by Retired Justice Cecil Kennard, the CoI is seeking to investigate the nonpayment of benefits, a rejected no-confidence motion that was filed against Town Clerk Royston King by Councillor Sherod Duncan, contracts that were awarded and the mismanagement of funds among other areas.At Monday’s session, the issue of King distributing lease documents for a plot of land which is not owned by the Council to a shipping carrier came under scrutiny.While the matter has not yet been addressed by the Commission, Guyana Times understands that Quick Shipping Inc was given permission to operate on a piece of land at Lot 1 Mudflat, Lombard Street at the cost of $625,000 per year.Initially, the company had sent a letter to National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) on September 6, 2016 which requested permission to rent the piece of land. It has been insinuated that the Town Clerk did not submit the lease document to the entire Council for deliberations. This is supposed to be done d for all contracts which pass through City Hall.Town Clerk Royston KingPrior to the announcement by the Local Government Commission (LGC) to launch a CoI into the operations at City Hall, the Town Clerk was sent on administrative leave and representing the Commission were Everton Singh-Lammy and Sherwin Benjamin.Both King and the Mayor, Patricia Chase Green are expected to testify at later hearings, but witnesses on Monday included 59-year-old Kenrick Hamilton, who shared his concerns as it relates to accumulating no benefits after serving for over 20 years.He was placed to work as an ‘unfixed’ employee which means that he would receive no benefits after the age of 65. Fixed employees are expected to retire at the age of 55, with benefits.Hamilton told the Commission he would have engaged several Ministries on this matter and a response from the Labour Department of the Social Protection Ministry led to a meeting which the Council did not attend.“Every time we call Labour, City Council make an excuse. We end up now taking it on our own and write the President of Guyana,” he said.Also testifying at the CoI was Julian Orjester, who claimed that he served in the position of assistant town clerk, but was never paid an increase.According to Orjester, he was asked to serve as the assistant town clerk in 2013 on two occasions. The man indicated that he summoned King on numerous occasions as it related to his money but would only get to speak with the Town Clerk if he was in “a good mood”.On one occasion, the man said that King told him, “Julian, I cannot help you.”Retired employees also gave their statements, primarily as it relates to monies that were owed to them after various salary increases. Jardine Hope and Allison Collins testified as former employees who did not receive increases that were granted by the Government.Collins related that she was owed money since 2015 and 2016 and was told, “He (Royston King) said he don’t have money to pay us our back pay nor my gratuity. I would like to have my money from the Mayor and City Council.”The Inquiry is expected to conclude on October 31, 2018 when the necessary recommendations will be submitted after all evidence is presented before the Commission. Justice Kennard sought to point out that letters in the media will not be taken into account as testimony. Hence, persons would have to take the stand under oath to submit their evidence.The CoI comes just months away from the Local Government Elections (LGE) after which a new executive body will be elected to oversee the activities of the Council.However, it was claimed that this was necessary since numerous complaints were made by staffers of the Council and other agencies regarding the expenditure and decisions which were made by the Council.On September 21, 2018, the Town Clerk was instructed to proceed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.