Parking meter fiasco− Finance Minister reprimands entityThe Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has promised to today visit the operators of Smart City Solutions (SCS) over what appears to be a blatant exploitation of consumers on the cost for a meter card.A senior official of the tax body told Guyana Times on Monday evening that it appears that SCS is charging consumers twice for Value Added Tax (VAT) on the meter card. The GeoPark card shows the sum of $2,500, however, consumers are paying an extra $400 as the card also a $2,900 total VAT-inclusive cost. The GRA official said SCS will need to clarify it.VAT chargesMeanwhile, Finance Minister Winston Jordan, addressing the National Assembly on Monday, condemned the private company for the VAT consumers have to pay on the meter card. The concern about the card was first raised by Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, who told the House that she hopes the company will reimburse those persons who were made to pay the extra money since the project came into operation.In response, Jordan said in the National Assembly this should not be happening, continuing that a statement about the practice of the company will be sent out.Parking meters toremain at schoolsMeanwhile, the company on Monday rebuked President of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) Mark Lyte for causing some confusion over the decision taken by the three bodies, which met last Friday, to address the issue of parking meters in front of public schools. It said the information shared by the GTU President has already caused some misunderstanding and has led to contradictory reports by the media.As far as SCS is concerned, unlike what was reported by Lyte, the parking meters which stand in front of schools will not be removed. In fact, SCS said the multi-space parking meters, which are installed across the road facing the front of schools, or in the vicinity of public schools and which regulate a number of parking spaces, excluding those in front of public schools, will remain and continue in operation.At a joint meeting between the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and Smart City Solutions (SCS), it was agreed and jointly announced that vehicle parking spaces immediately in front of public schools will “not be regulated for the purpose of metered parking by Smart City Solutions.”The GTU had last Monday held a meeting with representatives from Smart City Solutions Incorporated (SCSI). The concern was over teachers being required to pay for parking in front of public schools.GTU General Secretary Coretta Mc Donald had said that having a vehicle is not a luxury for some, but a necessity. Pointing to the fact that even teachers at the nursery school level drove, she stated that this was an unfair situation when teachers’ salaries have remained inadequate and the cost of living in Guyana was already high.The manner in which the parking meter contract, signed in November 2015, was arranged with National Parking Solutions/SCSI has attracted heavy scrutiny in the press. Subsequently, the Finance Ministry and the Attorney General’s Chambers conducted reviews of the contract to determine its practicality and legality. One of the observations of the Finance Ministry had been that “the contract has given complete monopoly power to SCSI over parking within Georgetown. This control could lead to exploitation of consumers as SCSI has the power to change fees arbitrarily and determine zones.” The fees amount to at least $200 an hour. The minimum time a motorist can purchase is 15 minutes. Metered hours are Monday to Saturday, from 07:00h to 19:00h (7am to 7pm).