Sun | Nov 19, 2017

Hay project fails to deliver

Published:Monday | May 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

An audit by the Ministry of Agriculture has revealed that the Hay Commercialisation Project failed to deliver on any of its objectives outlined in the project document.

According to the findings, the production levels have been significantly low and show minimal signs of improvement for growth and sustainability.

"Comparison of what was forecast against actual output of the project was abysmal. If actions are not taken to assess and implement corrective measures in a timely manner, the project will be a complete failure, resulting in a waste of government funding," the audit found.

In 2014, the agriculture ministry tabled a document in Parliament touting the project as the future model for hay production in Jamaica, and projected that by the 2015-2016 financial year, 24,000 bales of hay would be produced annually at the Hounslow Training Centre in

St Elizabeth.

The ministry also indicated that a major objective of the project was to decrease the use of animal feed concentrate by 50 per cent by making the hay available to "the entire dairy industry".

But the auditors reported that a comparison of feed consumption records for 2014 and 2015 show that the use of concentrates declined by 27 per cent, moving from 4,320 bags to 3,148.

The audit painted a picture of lax monitoring and "poor intervention" almost from the start of the project and became a feature throughout.

NO ASSESSMENT DONE

It noted that the Jamaica Development Dairy Board (JDDB) provided the

$20 million for the initiative in two payments, with the stipulation that the second disbursement should only be made "upon the satisfactory review of the project progress by the officer assigned".

"No progress reports were seen to indicate that an assessment of the works done under the first disbursement was satisfactorily carried out and that management was satisfied with the achievements. Despite this, an amount of $10 million was disbursed two months and 16 days after," the auditors wrote.

The audit noted, too, that the grant and loan agreement for the project stipulated that monthly and annual progress reports are to be submitted to the JDDB. "However, only two progress reports were submitted in 2014 and one status report in 2016," the report said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com