Tue | Sep 29, 2020

Integrity Commission pledges intense monitoring of debushing works

Published:Wednesday | December 11, 2019 | 12:10 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
From left: Little North Street residents Sharon Tucker, Devon Myers and Verna Jones look on as 71-year-old Andral Johnson loosens the dirt and silt for removal during a drain-cleaning exercise at the intersection of North Street and Johns Lane in Kingston on November 26.
From left: Little North Street residents Sharon Tucker, Devon Myers and Verna Jones look on as 71-year-old Andral Johnson loosens the dirt and silt for removal during a drain-cleaning exercise at the intersection of North Street and Johns Lane in Kingston on November 26.

As the Government undertakes a $1.3-billion sanitation, drain-cleaning and beautification programme, the agency tasked with the responsibility to provide oversight is signalling that it will carry out intense scrutiny of the works to ensure that taxpayers get value for money.

“I will appeal to persons who are doing the job that they would exercise some amount of civic pride and recognise that, yes, you are doing a job to ensure that there is better condition for us all, so we are expecting them to do the best possible job that they can do,” said Colonel Daniel Pryce, executive director of the Integrity Commission.

Pryce told The Gleaner that the commission would be meeting with the implementing agencies – the National Solid Waste Management Authority and the National Works Agency – to discuss its monitoring and oversight role in the billion-dollar project announced in Parliament by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on November 12.

The prime minister told his parliamentary colleagues who have been allocated $15 million for each of the 63 constituencies, that the programme which will run until February 2020, was not “giveaway work”.

The exercise is also twinned with a $1-billion national response to mitigate the incidence of dengue that has claimed nearly 50 lives since the start of the year.

Pryce said the Integrity Commission has the capacity to effectively monitor projects across the country.

According to Pryce, the commission would deploy its inspectors to check on the works and submit a report to the Government at the end of the exercise.

However, head of the National Integrity Action, Professor Trevor Munroe, is urging the commission to not only provide a report after the completion of the programme, but inform the public about its findings, even while the project is under way.

In a report into the $600-million islandwide debushing and drain-cleaning exercise islandwide in 2016, then Contractor General Dirk Harrison raised questions about whether three government ministers had undue influence in selecting contractors, subcontractors and setting payment terms in the execution of the controversial programme, which was rolled out just ahead of the local government elections.

The report was also replete with complaints that many of the contractors did not remove debris cleared or burnt material in contravention of their contracts.

Munroe questioned whether the Government had considered the contractor general’s recommendations to ensure that there was not a repetition of funds being wasted and regulations being breached.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com