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Bureaucratic potholes slow Riverton road repair

Published:Sunday | September 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Local Government and Community Development Minister Noel Arscott (left) and Mexican Ambassador to Jamaica Gerardo Lozano discussing the rehabilitation of the access road to the Riverton landfill in St Andrew during a tour in March. - File

Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott has pointed to the bureaucracy surrounding government projects as the reason for the long delay in the start of the rehabilitation of the road leading to the Riverton City Landfill.

Just over six months ago, Arscott, with much fanfare, travelled to the landfill, where he was joined by Mexican Ambassador to Jamaica Gerardo Lozano, to announce a US$1 million project to repair the road, which is bumpy and dusty when the time is dry, and a swamp once it rains.

At that time, it was announced that the Mexican firm CEMEX would undertake work to introduce a concrete surface and proper street lights. But since then, not one ounce of cement has been poured and not even the preparatory work has started.

"The procurement and the issuing of the contract is really what is my biggest concern," Arscott told our news team last week as he noted that the United Nations, Office for Project Services (UNOPS) had to review the proposed agreement before it could be signed.

"What I was told is that the minister of finance had sent the letter to his counterpart in Mexico. That was done, and so the thing was initiated, however, it was sent to the UNOPS, who were supposed to have been doing the procurement, and that kind of thing. So they are waiting on the UNOPS," added Arscott.

"It is a first that I've had to deal with them (UNOPS), and I would never have anticipated in my wildest dreams that it would have taken a fraction of the time. So if you ever hear about bureaucracy in Jamaica, check UN," declared Arscott.

Raúl Mendoza Gallo, head of consular, commercial, and cooperation affairs - Embassy of Mexico, is optimistic that the green light will be had soon for the agreement to be signed and work to commence.

LAST STAGE

"We are in the last stage of the process for the signing of the agreement," Mendoza Gallo told The Sunday Gleaner.

"There is an agreement that has to be signed for the transfer of the resources, so we are expecting to conclude that process within the next few weeks. We are projecting that this project could start before the end of the year, but it depends on the signing of the agreement," added Mendoza Gallo.

The Embassy of Mexico is also waiting on the Jamaican Government to indicate who is to receive the money after approval has been granted by the UNOPS.

"That is something that needs to be defined because we have been working with the Minister of Local Government, Minister Arscott, but we understand that the person authorised to receive the funds is probably Minister (Peter) Phillips, minister of finance," Mendoza Gallo said.

"We are expecting the Government of Jamaica to define that so we can conclude the agreement process."

But Arscott is not overly concerned about who collects the money. "If it has to go through the Finance Ministry, fine. How the payments are made and from whom, I don't worry about that much."

This is the first project that will be executed locally with money from the Infrastructure Fund for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, operated by the Mexican government.

The fund was established by the Government of Mexico in 2011 with an initial amount of US$160 million, and according to Mendoza Gallo, the repair to the Riverton City Landfill access road is likely to be followed by other projects.

"We decided to start this project as a first project for Jamaica, and it was decided that considering the amount for the project, less than US$5 million, it has been authorised as a single donation," Mendoza Gallo said.

"Because the fund includes other things like loans, guarantees, and joint ventures, a single donation is, let's say, a simple procedure. We are in discussions about other areas and with other ministries for new projects of greater impact."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com