Thu | Dec 13, 2018

On the Corner with EPOC | Nannyville residents demand value for Government spend

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Nannyville Gardens resident Ryan Patrick is passionate as he makes his point during the Gleaner on the Corner with EPOC forum last Monday.
Keith Duncan (right), co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), agreeing with residents of Nannywville Gardens that the country needs value for money spent by the Government.

Residents of Nannyville Gardens are demanding that the Government ensures that the country gets full value for every cent of taxpayers' money spent.

They are also urging the Andrew Holness administration to ensure that there is transparency in how the nation's business is conducted.

Sounding off during a Gleaner on the Corner with the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) last Monday, the residents charged that for too long taxpayers have paid dearly for a lack of accountability in how the Government conducts business.

With co-chairman of EPOC, Keith Duncan, describing the economy as on track based on the macroeconomic outlook, the residents charged that the man on the street is not feeling the improvement because of corruption and waste.

"The economy is not on track. If you ask the people, their economy is not on track, and if people's economy is not on track, then the country's economy is not on track," declared one resident who identified himself only as 'Travis'.

He urged EPOC's to ensure that the taxpayers' money is not wasted.


Not EPOC's role


But Duncan noted that ensuring value for money of Government projects was not a part of EPOC's mandate.

"We (EPOC) know exactly how the money is to be spent. The Government determines how the money is spent on different projects," said Duncan.

"We know that the most they should spend, for argument's sake, is $2 billion. If they spend a penny above that, then we say that you are exceeding the spending and you might put us in a deficit position again, and you cannot do that. But they have the discretion within that to determine how they spend it," added Duncan.

Still, Travis and his neighbours were not convinced as they were adamant that the oversight body should have the ability to ensure value for money.

"For example, how much money spent on roadworks and we see road fixed, and six months, to a year later, the same road mash up. How you really deal with that, because me really feel like the contractor dem a extort the country," charged Travis.

He questioned how some contractors, who are not engineers, could be given contracts valued at millions, to repair roads.

Fellow Nannyville resident Ryan Patrick was quick to agree, as charged that under both administrations Jamaicans have not received value for money.

"A long time dat a gwaan. It happen from before me born and under the two parties. In January, mi see dem fix de road and it dig up said way by now," Patrick argued.


Roads dug up


Another resident, Antoinette Gayle, cited the example of the National Water Commission (NWC) and how it costs the country millions of dollars when the roads are dug up and left that way for extended periods.

"Right there, they come and they dig up the roads because the main was leaking. I had to fix it. They just leave it there. Who is in charge, and who is there to ensure that they fix it back properly?" asked Gayle.

Duncan pointed out that while EPOC could not take on that role, there are several oversight bodies such as the Contractor General and the Auditor General, who were there to guarantee value for money.

"I think all of Jamaica is with you. We must get value for our money. We pay all the taxes. So, therefore, the point is that Jamaica must receive value for money," agreed Duncan.

"We have to push back as a people and say we want value for money. Dem mek we pay de whole heap a tax, and we not getting value. We have to insist that public bodies such as the NWC do what they are supposed to do," added Duncan.