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Shaw calls for Gov't to give fire service more money

Published:Wednesday | October 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Audley Shaw

Audley Shaw, chairman of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, yesterday urged the Government to craft in its First Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure the sum of $122 million to repair equipment urgently needed by the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) as the cash-strapped entity struggles to deliver a critical service to the country.

"The relatively small sum of money that the fire department needs can result in significant enhancement of its capabilities. For $122 million, we can repair 5,000 fire hydrants, repair 13 fire units, putting them back in service, and repair three ambulances," Shaw told members of the committee.

In a performance audit of the JFB, the Auditor General's Department had reported that about 36 per cent of the brigade's vehicles were out of service.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis told the committee yesterday that as at October 1, 2014, at least 35 vehicles belonging to the fire service were in a state of disrepair.

PLEDGED TO UPDATE COMMITTEE

Errol Mowatt, acting commissioner of the JFB, was unable to provide the committee with the latest information on how many vehicles were out of service. However, he pledged to supply the committee with details on the units that are defective.

The JFB boss told the PAC that when the Auditor General's Department conducted its audit in June this year, 25 units were out of service, six fewer than the number reported by the oversight body. However, the auditor general maintained that the 31 reported at the time was accurate.

According to Mowatt, 13 of the 25 vehicles are not reparable, six have been repaired, and another 13 units are to be fixed on a priority basis.

Mowatt also reported that a little more than 5,000 fire hydrants needed repairs. This represents about 37 per cent of the 13,529 fire hydrants in the island.

The sum to repair the fire hydrants is about $67 million, Mowatt said, while pointing out that $630,000 was needed to repair three ambulances. In addition, the 13 vehicles to be repaired will cost the JFB about $54 million.

The committee was also told that an allocation has been made in the 2014-2015 Budget for the repair of one fire boat in Ocho Rios.