Tue | Oct 24, 2017

Editorial | Give us the NSWMA plan

Published:Thursday | December 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM

We understand the risks thereto, but this newspaper is not inherently opposed to people involved in partisan politics holding executive jobs in government agencies, once they are qualified for their jobs and are capable of drawing a clear line between their political and professional roles.

That demarcation part is often hard to do and more difficult in institutions so structured, and so the delivery of patronage is easy to accomplish: usually those that employ large amounts of informal staff and frequently engaging services on short-term contracts. On the face of it, the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) has the characteristics of an institution where the commingling of these roles can be a toxic mix.

Moreover, the NSWMA has a reputation for corruption and inefficiency, and while there is no hard evidence that bears responsibility for perceptions about the place, the institution's two previous CEOs have been political activists with no training nor experience in solid waste management, or closely related matters. The third, in Audley Gordon, was recently installed.

We, however, are willing to give Mr Gordon the benefit of the doubt, given his strong endorsement by the board of governors, who must, especially the chairman, Dennis Chung, be held to account.

Mr Gordon was lately a deputy general secretary of the governing Jamaica Labour Party and has also represented the party on the capital city's municipal council. He has training in law enforcement and has run business.

In mid-year, four months after his party won the government, he applied for the job of head of the NWSMA, but was determined to be more suitable for the role of chief technical officer, to which he was appointed. Earlier this month, he was promoted to CEO, based, the board said, on his performance in the previous job, as well as interviews in which he competed against other applicants.

What especially Mr Gordon brought to the table, according to Mr Chung, was his convincing articulation of a "clear vision for the transformation of the NSWMA".

 

A DETAILED PLAN

 

But it goes beyond vision. Mr Gordon, the chairman reported, has a "detailed plan" for the NSWMA to be an effective regulator of the solid waste sector, as well as for establishing world-class sanitary landfills in Jamaica.

We are excited by this prospect given the crisis in solid waste management in Jamaica. The country's roads, drains, rivers and coastal areas are littered with PET bottles and styrofoam containers; little or no recycling of waste takes place; hazardous material commingle with other waste; and there are no projects for extracting value from solid waste. Neither is there, insofar as we are aware, a credible plan to sustainably finance solid waste management.

In the circumstances, it is urgent, we believe, that Mr Gordon and the NSWMA put to public scrutiny their detailed transformative plan, inclusive of how they intend to structure the agency to separately undertake its regulatory and operational functions, if that is the idea, how they expect the new arrangement will be funded and the timelines for delivery on its various components. That document, too, must say how corruption and inefficiency will be excised from the agency.

Mr Gordon and his governors will know that plan.