'JUTC buses in 90 crashes each month'
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
BUSES OWNED by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) are being involved in an average 90 crashes per month, heaping additional burden on the cash-strapped state entity, its managing director, Colin Campbell, has said.
The buses, Campbell said, are being involved in a crash every 27,000 kilometres, way out of line with the international benchmark of one crash per 50,000 kilometres.
"There was one day last week where we had 10 accidents," Campbell told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of parliament on Wednesday.
"We have a number of programmes in the company now, to try and bring down the accident rate, but it is one of the stubborn issues, one of the very serious problems within the company," Campbell said.
Financial statements submitted to the committee shows that for the first four months of the fiscal year, the JUTC's insurance-claims payable stood at $746.9 million, up from $746.1 million over the same period last year.
"We have programmes, internally, to try to drive it down, but it is one of the very serious issues within the company," Campbell said.
He told Parliament that two accidents in Hellshire, St Catherine, and Faith's Pen, St Ann, cost more than $200 million. He said the Faith's Pen claim has been paid off and the JUTC has almost fully honoured the claim for the Hellshire crash.
In the October 2010 Faith's Pen crash, a JUTC bus carrying a church group plunged over a precipice. A 16-year-old Bridgeport High School student, Jodian Henry, died as a result of the accident. A total of 41 people were injured. The JUTC was ordered to pay $106 million.
The price tag for the Hellshire crash was $48 million.
In the meantime, the financials reveal that statutory payments for the four-month period is $3.58 billion, slightly down from $3.59 billion over the similar period last year. However, payment from salary deductions, which has not been honoured, is $106 million, way above the $80 million, compared to a similar period last year.
"In July, Cabinet took a decision to write off outstanding education tax and PAYE (pay as you earn) of just over $2 billion," Campbell noted.
"In terms of our other statutory obligations - NIS (national insurance scheme) and NHT, those are outstanding," he added.
Campbell said also that the bus company has been tapping into monies that have been deducted from workers' salaries to honour loans, saving and insurance payments to third parties.
"That is one of the problems of the cash-flow situation why we need to have an increase in the fares. When the revenue is insufficient to pay bills, these are the kinds of things that happens," Campbell said.
He told the committee that the JUTC has worked out agreements with institutions to which the funds are intended. That, however, was no comfort to committee member Audley Shaw, who advised public-sector workers not to enter into any arrangements that will place the responsibility of the paying over of funds into the hands of entities such as the JUTC.
"They better stop having government deducting from them, and they pay their bills themselves," Shaw said.