$1-billion Christmas gift - MPs get funds to enhance constituencies
Nearly $1 billion has been allocated to all members of parliament (MPs) for enhancement work in their constituencies, but Prime Minister Andrew Holness has sought to assure taxpayers that this will not be the usual 'bollo work' traditionally doled out during the Christmas season.
The third cycle of the Government's Disaster Mitigation Works Programme, which will cost taxpayers $997 million, will be driven by parliamentarians and is to commence next Monday and run until the first week of December.
Approximately $100 million will be reserved for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to clean up "strategic public thoroughfares which will not get the attention of the MPs".
"It so happens to coincide with Christmas, but it is not the giveaway work, is not bollo work, is not work that you just expect to get a money and come out and do nothing," said Holness, as he announced the project in the House of Representatives yesterday.
"We have ensured that at every stage there will be checks and balances to ensure value for money. This is not giveaway money and I want to emphasise that point in Parliament. If there is no work, there will be no pay."
Seeking to ensure that the programme stand up to scrutiny, the prime minister announced, too, that the National Integrity Commission has been requested to provide assistance in verifying the work upon completion.
HIGH LEVEL OF ACCOUNTABILITY
"I could not announce a $900-million programme without, at the same time, ensuring, especially since it is MP-driven, that there is a high level of accountability," he said.
Under the programme,
$12 million will be allocated to each of the 63 constituencies to target critical drains, road patching, bush clearing and sanitation.
Each constituency will receive $6 million for bush clearing and drain cleaning, and $5 million for road patching.
Holness noted that although the project is driven by parliamentarians, their role will primarily include directing the two implementing agencies - the NSWMA and the National Works Agency (NWA).
"Let's be clear: MPs don't get in their hands a cheque for $6 million for them to distribute," he said.
The parliamentary Opposition welcomed the programme, but raised concerns that the funds allocated for each constituency were inadequate to address urgent needs.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips said parliamentarians are "hopeful" that the programme will help them address "some portion of the tremendous demand" for work across their constituencies.
Holness said the programme will assist many Jamaicans, especially "those who are on the margins of society. [Those] who probably would not have a chance of having any employment and receiving any funds at all for the Christmas season."