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Editorial: Mr Arscott must not interfere at NSWMA

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

It has not been reported whether the local government minister, Noel Arscott, met, as he has planned, with the board of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to discuss what effectively is their sacking of its CEO, Jennifer Edwards.

We hope he hasn't, and won't. Moreover, we hope it wasn't, or isn't, Mr Arscott's intent to pressure or intimidate the board into rescinding their decision, in accordance with the campaign of some members of the governing People's National Party (PNP), of which Ms Edwards is a high official, and a handful of misguided employees of the NSWMA. If the NSWMA's chairman, Steve Ashley, and other members have even a whiff that that is indeed Mr Arscott's contemplation, they will have no option but to resign and go public with the reason for their decision.

This newspaper has been clear from the start that, while Ms Edwards may be effective in other endeavours, including being the president of the PNP's Women's Movement, as the CEO of the solid-waste management agency, she was caught in the Peter Principle: being promoted beyond her point of competence.

Our conclusion about Ms Edwards is informed not only by the ongoing fire at the capital's dump, Riverton City, that, for several days, cast toxin-laden smog over Kingston and its suburbs - for which she blames the inadequacy of resources with which to properly manage the facility. We do not disagree that money is a problem, and that the annual government subsidy of J$1 billion is insufficient to manage the national operations of the NSWMA.

But that is an incomplete picture of the matter at the agency or for an assessment of Ms Edwards' performance. Indeed, this newspaper, like most Jamaicans, has been completely underwhelmed by her articulation of her framing of the issue of solid-waste management in Jamaica and, in so far as she perceives it to be a problem, what are its fixes.

Put another way, we are unaware of any structured written and rigorous proposal by Ms Edwards to transform Riverton City, and the country's other disposal sites, from dumps to sanitary landfills, including the cost for doing this and models of how the operations of these facilities might be financed. If there is such a document, the ideas contained in it have not been publicly articulated by the outgoing CEO.

 

State matter

 

Further, Ms Edwards seemed to presume that financing the solid-waste management, and any advancement of the process, was a matter primarily, if not solely, for the State. This might explain why so little appears to have been made of private-sector proposals for turning waste into energy, as well as other initiatives to extract economic gains from municipal waste. It is not unreasonable to assume that management of municipal waste has been kept in proximity to the country's political apparatus because governments and the political parties, from which they derive, see it as a channel through which some of the spoils of office can be easily passed to supporters.

Our proposal is that future CEOs of the NSWMA should be politically unconnected persons, but more critically, that the selection of boards and managing directors of some critical agencies and companies above benchmark sizes should be on the basis of advertisements and vetting by an independent body.