Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Controversy continues over J$600m debushing project

Published:Sunday | November 27, 2016 | 11:05 PM
Paul Burke

The war of words over the government's controversial J$600 million de-bushing project continues with the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) now accusing the prime minister of misleading the public.

The PNP is raising concerns over the apparent renaming of the project, which is now being called the Islandwide Mitigation Drain Cleaning Programme, as well as questioning the amount of money that has already been spent under the project.

In a release issued by outgoing General Secretary Paul Burke yesterday, the PNP claims nearly J$300 million had been paid out by contractors to persons employed under the de-bushing programme. The Opposition party said that was J$124 million above the amount disclosed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

"The People's National Party would like to know when the programme was renamed and upgraded as the 'Islandwide Mitigation Drain Cleaning Programme' as government officials including government ministers, previously spoke to a $600 million 'de-bushing' programme," the party questioned in the release.

In defence of the project, Holness said it was an annual initiative conducted by successive administrations.

He revealed that a similar programme was also conducted by the Simpson Miller administration in December last year at a cost of J$592 million.

The PNP has since acknowledged that the Portia Simpson Miller administration spent J$592 million on mitigation work last year, but contended that the spending covered more work and was spread over a 12-month period.

The PNP said in addition to drain and gully cleaning, the funds also covered hurricane preparations and the national Chik V clean-up programme.

The party said the programme also had the input of all members of parliament and local representatives.