Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
THE JAMAICAN taxpayer is spending nearly $1 billion per annum to fuel the 1,554-vehicle fleet of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
When the cost to maintain the fleet is taken into consideration, the spend on both fuel and maintenance skyrocket past the billion-dollar mark, with the Ministry of National Security budgeting $373 million this financial year to carry out repairs and servicing.
The sum total of maintenance and fuel costs for police vehicles currently stands at a little more than $1.3 billion.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Dr Annmarie Barnes, told members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday that it was costing the force $80 million per month to purchase fuel for the police to carry out their duties.
Technocrats from the ministry were summoned to the PAC to discuss a performance audit conducted by the Auditor General's Department on the management of police vehicles.
The findings of the audit was tabled in Parliament in November 2012. The Auditor General's Department had identified gaping holes and a severe lack of accountability in how repairs have been effected to the force's vehicles and shortcomings in the management of the fleet.
Quizzed about the number of vehicles the force needs at this time, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Rose said the JCF required a fleet of 3,000.
At the same time, the permanent secretary reported that the JCF has been implementing the recommendations of the auditor general to improve the management of the motor vehicle fleet.
"We have started work on implementation of all of the recommendations and several have been fully implemented," she told members of the PAC.
limited vehicle brands
In her performance audit of the management of police vehicles, the auditor general had raised concerns about the multiplicity of different makes of vehicles being operated by the force.
Yesterday, the permanent secretary advised that since October last year, the ministry had restricted its purchases to Toyota, Mitsubishi and Suzuki.
However, during the PAC deliberations on the number and types of vehicles used by the force, committee member Damion Crawford warned against divulging certain types of information to the public.
"I really don't believe that anybody in the public should know how many police cars ... and therefore the ability to respond in an area. I also don't believe that it is information necessary for any decision making right now of the brand of vehicle and, by extension, the adequacy or inadequacies of those vehicles," he argued.
He warned the committee against seeking to get certain information from the police in a public forum.
In a dissenting comment, committee member Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams contended that the public had a right to know whether they were secure or not.