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TEF's funding of squatter-settlement project stirs debate

Published:Thursday | July 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Wykeham McNeill

Chairman of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) Dr Wykeham McNeill has questioned why the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is financing a $30 million project for National Energy Solutions Limited (NESoL) to carry out upgrading work in the Grange community, a squatter settlement in St James.

Member of Parliament for the area and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett dismissed the query, noting that there was nothing untoward in the funding of the project. He said that the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) purchased the property in 2007 with a view to regularising the informal settlement.

According to Bartlett, work had started on the project but stopped after the administration changed in 2011. He noted that work had just restarted, and the HAJ gave NESoL the contract to put in the infrastructure for residents to get electricity. Bartlett said that about 200 lots are in the area.

Chief engineer at NESoL Anthony Brown told the PAAC on Wednesday that the Grange project was the only electrification programme that the company was doing for the TEF. He told the committee that the project delivered value for money.

However, McNeill raised the concern that the project was the only one of its kind being funded by the TEF.

But Bartlett made it clear that the HAJ had purchased the land from the Financial Sector Adjustment Company Limited with the aim of regularising the informal settlement.

"You have thousands of people there with little wires all over the place, and it is damaging to their health and well-being and the security of the children and everybody. There is nothing untoward about it," he stressed.