Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Editorial: NSWMA after Ms Edwards

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

As we predicted, and quite understandably, Jennifer Edwards rejects her unsuitability for the job, suggesting a willingness to ride out the firestorm over her inept management of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).

And she won't be fired. Ditching her would be embarrassing to the administration. For Ms Edwards is a ruling-party politician and a former aide to the prime minister, who, at the time of the appointment, was warned of the inefficacy of the Government's choice.

We remind Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller of a fact often highlighted by this newspaper, which her administration sometimes embraces - what is worse than creating bad policy is implementing it.

In the Budget for the new fiscal year, the Government will reverse its universal relief from general consumption tax (GCT) on electricity bills. The earlier you recognise and retreat from policy mistakes, the better.

Ms Edwards insists that rather than personal incompetence, the problem she has faced in her three years at the NSWMA - during which garbage collection has been poor and fires at the Corporate Area dump have choked the city with smog - is the absence of resources.


Constant whingeing and moaning


That is partially true, but represents only part of the basis for measuring Ms Edwards' competence at the job. Among her most glaring failures are her constant whingeing and moaning - about the resource gap, and all else, and her conceptually poor approach to problem-solving. So, if people do not place all their garbage in NSWMA-provided community skips, but dump some on the ground around them, her admitted solution, declared in a television interview, is to remove the dumpsters.

But of greater concern to us is Ms Edwards' failure to formulate a strategy, with full cost implications and potential financing, for transforming the NSWMA dumps, particularly Riverton City in St Andrew, or alternatives, into modern, professionally managed landfills.

Neither does it appear that Ms Edwards has done any serious thinking about the probable evolution of the NSWMA, in particular, on whether it should retain its dual role as operator of landfills and regulator of the industry.

If Ms Edwards has done these things, she has mot articulated them with clarity, nor has she engaged the society in a fulsome debate on its solid waste-management options, including models used in other jurisdictions to finance service delivery. For instance, a proactive CEO of a state-owned waste management-holding company that depends primarily on government subventions to finance its operations, might have broached the matter of specific, dedicated funding via municipal rates, pay-as-you-throw schemes, full privatisation of solid-waste management, or public-private sector partnerships.

That her predecessors didn't, is not an excuse. Although, if she did not, or if she did, and no one knows, would not be entirely Ms Edwards' fault. She reports to a board of directors, chaired by Steve Ashley, which is expected to establish broad policy and hold the CEO accountable. That board, supposedly, is itself accountable to the minister of local government.

All have failed. All should go. But given the history of these things, that is probably expecting too much. Ms Edwards and Mr Ashley, however, must!

Meantime, the Government should, with the help of international partners, recruit an expert in solid-waste management to help in restructuring the NSWMA.