The day before Paul Granda assumes duties as Cuenca’s new mayor, his war of words over the city’s financial condition continues to rage with outgoing mayor Marcelo Cabrera.
The point of contention is the size of the city debt and whether accounts receivable will be enough to save the day.
Granda has held several meetings with his new staff as well as with existing city staff and concludes that the financial picture is grim.
"I don’t intend to engage in an inquisition and don’t want to persecute anyone. On the other hand, we inherit a difficult fiscal situation. There is a debt of $14 to $20 million, depending on who’s looking at the numbers, and a staff that is much larger than we need or can afford,” says Granda. He adds that he will not understand the full extent of the problem until he takes office.
Cabrera, on the other hand, says that Granda is assuming the reins of a government that is in a condition similar to the one he took over eight years ago.
In interviews with Cuenca newspapers El Tiempo and El Mercurio, Cabrera stressed the accomplishments of his term in office, claiming his administration was one of the most productive in modern history.
He pointed to improvements in public works such as water and sewer projects, road improvements and telecommunication delivery that he says his administration oversaw. “Sure, there have been mistakes made. There always will be in government, but I stake my reputation on the fact that this has been an extremely productive administration,” Cabrera says.
According to Cabrera, current financial problems are a result of the recession, beginning in late 2008. “Since then, tax revenue and payments coming into the city have slowed down considerably,” he says. “Our biggest account receivable is the national government. Quito owes us almost $4 million.”
Granda claims that lax record keeping and poor management of accounts receivable are to blame. "I do not think the current administration can take pride in saying that the deficit is only $ 14 million, but that there are accounts receivable to cover it," he said. “Why is there so much owed to the city that has not been collected?”
The size of city government is also a concern for Granda. Depending on various sources, city staff has grown by between 150 and 300 during the past administration. The difficulty in determining the number, Granda says, comes in separating contract workers from those on salary.
Granda says he does not intend to continue criticism of Cabrera’s administration after he assumes office. “On Friday, all this becomes the responsibility of my administration. We will roll up our sleeves and get to work and do the best we can with the cards we have been dealt.”
President Rafael Correa will be in town tomorrow to participate in Granda's swearing in to the mayor's office.
Photo caption: Paul Granda becomes Cuenca mayor tomorrow.