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Concerns raised about payment for Christmas work

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The rush by some members of parliament to submit Christmas projects for approval by the Constituency Development Committee at this time of the month, has triggered concerns by Member of Parliament for Clarendon North West Richard Azan, who is questioning whether the workers will be paid by December 24.

"If you have projects approved today for Christmas programme, you would have a two-day turnaround for the funding to reach to the National Works Agency (NWA), and it would be impossible for the NWA to receive the funding in time to give out work to be done and for payment to be made by the 24th (of December) ," Azan reasoned during Tuesday's sitting of the committee.

However, Committee Chairman Everald Warmington said he could not understand why some MPs waited until Monday to submit Christmas projects.

"Why should we be concerned," Warmington scoffed, indicating that the MPs had sufficient time to submit projects before the Christmas season.

Pauline Scott Blair, assistant director of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Unit, said the agency released money for constituency projects based on the availability of funds. The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service allocates funding for the CDF projects.

Scott Blair told committee members that it takes two days for the CDF Unit to process projects, after which it is dispatched to the implementing agency for action.

At least three projects were approved Tuesday by the parliamentary committee for Christmas work to be carried out in Westmoreland Eastern, St James West Central and St Mary South Eastern.

Meanwhile, during yesterday's committee meeting, the chairman gave an update on talks between the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the parliamentary committee on money the implementing agency owes to constituencies.

According to Warmington, the SDC owes constituencies more than $100 million. He said the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is in dialogue with the Ministry of Finance to resolve the issue. The SDC was reportedly using the funds it received to implement CDF projects for housekeeping expenses.

Warmington told committee members that the SDC would not be able to refund the money, and, as such, the finance ministry would be approached to have the funds included in the supplementary estimates of expenditure or for it to be allocated in the 2017-2018 Budget.