Editorial | Royalton in the absence of joined-up government
Quite rightly, a slew of government agencies have launched investigations into Tuesday's early morning collapse of a portion of the under-construction Blue Diamond Royalton Hotel, where concrete had apparently just been poured for an upper deck. Fortuitously, no life was lost in the incident, although five construction workers were injured.
In a bizarre sense, it is better that this happened now rather than when the project was completed, the hotel was opened and the collapsed floor, and those below it, might have been filled with hundreds of guests and employees. Such an occurrence would be a disaster beyond the impact immediate event, but for the longer-term effect on the tourism industry. Some, visitors, in the circumstance, might be wary of coming to Jamaica.
Hopefully, the problems that caused structural failure was isolated to the section of the building that collapsed, rather than broader design and engineering issues that will require the condemnation of the entire structure. If the latter is indeed the case, the group assigned to investigate the matter, headed by the National Works Agency (NWA) boss, E G Hunter, must not resile from what is to be done. While the team must be thorough in their assessment, they should be expeditious in their job.
Design and engineering issues apart, Royalton matter highlights other questions - some of which have been raised in the past - about the conduct of regulatory agencies, which ought again to be addressed and finally, we hope, resolved. Not least of these is the project/building approval process, which, but for the most committed applicant, might be a frightening maze.
We start, though, with the seeming absence of communication between government
agencies, leading to a lack of information by the appropriate bodies, about the skills and competencies of individuals and organizations for which they are supposed to have oversight.
For instance, the Professional Engineers Board (PERB) reported that the contractor on the Royalton project, Therresta Limited Jamaica, a subsidiary of a Dominican Republic firm, was not registered with it. But Therresta Jamaica has been registered as a company in Jamaica for a decade and has received work permits from the labour ministry for temporary staff hired from abroad.
"We have told the (labour) ministry that they cannot offer work permits to these people without sending the information to us so that we can assess," said PERB member, Noel Brown. In the absence of such information the PERB could not assess whether imported people working on projects as engineers were qualified to do so.
That is not an unreasonable concern. It should happen. We do, however, wonder whether, in the absence of information, the PERB feels itself obligated at anytime to do site visits of major engineering-related projects to determine whether engineers working on them are appropriately registered and/or suitably qualified. Maybe Dr Brown will review this observation/suggestion for its logic and and/or feasibility.
Further, we note the claim of Cliff Reynolds, the former chairman Negril and Green Planning Authority (NGIPLA) that that agency was bypassed by Royalton in seeking construction approval, when it should have been the first agency to review plans, before environmental assessment by the National Planning Agency (NEPA). How might have construction begun, if this is the case?
The Hanover Parish Council could shed no light on that matter, but said that when amended design plans were sent to it, they advised they be forwarded to NGILPA. So much for joined up government.