Sun | Mar 26, 2017

Editorial: Kudos on NSWMA board

Published:Friday | April 24, 2015 | 4:00 AM

Noel Arscott, the bungling and inept local government minister, was bound, at some point, to get something right. That may turn out to be fixing the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), which is responsible for handling the country's garbage.

Our optimism for something done by Mr Arscott rests on the proven competence of the new set of directors - chaired by Dennis Chung - he has appointed for the NSWMA. We believe that barring undue interference by Mr Arscott and if the advice of the board translates to policy, not only will the authority be cleaned of its incompetence and perceived corruption, but Jamaica would be on its way to escaping the crisis in solid-waste management.

The problems of the NSWMA are not new. Garbage collection and solid-waste disposal, whether via the NSWMA or its predecessors, have long been considered troughs at which political lackeys have been able to feed. The issue came to a head because of the apparent ineptitude - in a classic display of Peter Principle in action - with which Jennifer Edwards, the NSWMA's politician CEO, was deemed to have managed the most recent of a string of fires at the capital's dump in Riverton City.

Conveniently for people who are concerned about these things, even her fellow member of the People's National Party and politically active chairman, Steve Ashley, came to share the public's view of Ms Edwards' unsuitability for the job, leading to her dismissal, infighting, a collapse of the board, and it appears, Mr Arscott's acceptance that Ms Edwards could not be saved.

We read in the composition of the new board that Minister Arscott, as some in the Government already agree, accepts that it can't be business as usual at the NSWMA. Mr Chung, the chairman, is CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and has had the experience of presiding over the clean-up and turnaround of a government company, the Jamaica Ultimate Tyre Company.

He will also have on the board other experienced corporate leaders, including Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson, the principal and chairman of National bakery, as well as people with experience in environmental management, not least being the vice-chairman, Conrad Douglas.

 

first order of business

 

The first order of business for the board must be to recruit a competent CEO, with experience in solid-waste management, possibly logistics, an appreciation for financial control and management, and who is not constrained by political affiliations. The board must not be afraid, if required, to recruit from abroad, including asking Jamaica's foreign partners to second specialists to the NSWMA.

Second, the board, as we expect would have been a condition for accepting the assignment, must be transparent, willing to speak out at the first sign of unwarranted political interference or of corrupt practice. They must ensure that taxpayers get value for their money. Ms Edwards often complained that the J$1-billion government subvention to the NSWMA was insufficient, which is perhaps true. It is nonetheless our belief that it can be more efficiently used.

Further, the board must find new ways of financing and managing solid-waste disposal, including privatising the running of dumps and requiring operators to establish sanitary landfills.