Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Opposition alleges 'massive' RADA overspending on farm road programme

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 12:58 PM
Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips (right) and Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern, Victor Wright, at a press conference on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - Ian Allen photo

The Opposition says it has presented to the Auditor General information about what it calls the scandalous misuse of public funds of massive proportions.

According to the Opposition, there are serious issues of concern surrounding the Rehabilitation of the Farm Roads Programme undertaken by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

It said the overall budgetary provision for farm roads islandwide was approximately $470 million for 2017-2018.

However, in St Thomas alone, total contracts were prepared in the amount of $1.6 billion in that same year for bushing only, according to the Opposition.

Additionally, the Opposition says its investigation revealed that rates paid in these contracts were higher than those being paid by the National Works Agency (NWA) for the same work.

According to the Opposition, bushing contracts were being done at a rate of $10,380,000 per kilometre under the RADA farm road programme, which it says is in contrast to the $150,000 per kilometre paid by the NWA for bushing.

The opposition says it can confirm at least two instances, noting that the difference between the NWA’s rate and RADA’s rate is over 6,000 per cent.

The Opposition says it has submitted all it has uncovered to the Auditor General’s Department, which it wants to conduct a full financial audit of the programme.

A performance audit by the department found that RADA paid scant regard to government guidelines in the awarding of contracts valuing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Among other things, the audit, which was tabled in parliament in October, stated that RADA's process of selecting contractors was not always transparent or competitive.

READ: RADA under fire

The opposition also wants the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency to undertake a thorough forensic investigation.

It says Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at the minimum, should ask Ministers Audley Shaw and J.C. Hutchinson, who have portfolio responsibilities for RADA, as well as the authority’s Board of Management to step aside until the investigations are completed.

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