Wed | Dec 7, 2016

TPDCo gets top grade, but NSWMA falters on accountability

Published:Wednesday | September 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

A.C. Countz, Guest Columnist

Minister Noel Arscott, Minister of State Colin Fagan, Acting Permanent Secretary (PS) Dione Jennings, and Jennifer Edwards, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA), have demonstrated little regard for accountability or the Access to Information Act.

The NSWMA has been requested on three occasions since February 7, 2014 to provide financial information. It has not done so.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government was sent a formal request on April 25, under the Access to Information Act. Instead of obtaining the information and passing it on - NSWMA falls under her ministry - she flipped the formal request back to the NSWMA, the same organisation that failed to respond to earlier requests.

The law requires a response within 30 days. None has been received.

It is surprising that the Steve Ashley-led board appears to take no interest. If this indifference continues, then one expects the responsible minister might replace the board.

Minister Arscott and State Minister Fagan have taken no demonstrable action to ensure that the NSWMA tells the public if it has current accounts and to make these available. Acting PS Jennings appears unwilling to exert the necessary energy to have responses made to enquiries from the public.

The comparison to TPDCO below is night to day.

TPDCo gets an 'A' for public accountability

We are grateful to Dennis Hickey, executive director of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) for sending us the 'in-house audited accounts' as at March 2014.

In doing so, he is pretty much the first public servant to put aside the foolish rule that accounts cannot be shared with the public until "tabled in Parliament".

Well done, Mr Hickey. The board led by Maxine Henry-Wilson gets an 'A' for accountability. What a fine example to all the public-sector companies that are so woefully in accounting arrears or so unaware of their public responsibility that they fail to make public their accounts.

Here we are within six months after the financial year end and TPDCO's accounts are audited and available to the public.

Maybe this board should have its scope expanded and become PAOCO, i.e. Public Accounts Oversight Company. It certainly should bring pressure on all the other Tourism Ministry entities who have so far acted with the same failure of public accountability as most other companies approached.

TPDCO has revenue of $744 million - largely grants of $322m and $352m, respectively, from the GOJ and the Tourism Enhancement Fund. Interestingly, it earned $27 million from the Rio Grande attraction and spent $26 million on the same attraction. Directors' fees in total are a modest $1.4 million.

Its inspection department earns $41 million and costs $102 million.

On the negative side, TPDCo increased its provision for bad debts by $8 million in 2014, without stating in its accounts the cause of this substantial expense. The accounts also do not explain why TPDCO did not defend itself against a claim from Riverwalk Limited that it and the JTB eventually settled for $500,000 (US$?). And it faces another lawsuit. Additionally, its listing of directors at the Companies Office of Jamaica is out of date.

This is a much bigger company than most readers would believe.

Who owns Nutrition Products Limited?

First, a complaint. Why should the Ministry of Education (MOE) charge for the provision of hard copies of the accounts of Nutrition Products Limited (NPL)?

These are public documents. They should be provided free.

Further, why do these documents have to be collected from the Ministry's building? What is wrong with the postal service?

And, why are the latest public accounts for March 2012 - so many years ago? The MOE indicates that the March 2013 and March 2014 accounts are being audited now!

The NPL board and management personnel responsible should be sanctioned.

What's more, none of the shares of NPL - as recorded at Registrar of Companies - are registered in the name of the MOE/Government of Jamaica. It is odd that external auditors, Deloitte, do not check the registered ownership of the company's shares. Who owns this company that the GOJ gave a subvention of taxpayers' funds in 2012 of $744m - or over $2m a day!

This column cannot judge how good NPL is doing at supplying schools with bullas, rock cakes, sliced and spice buns, breads (cheese, corn and raisin) and spice cakes, but the company's total liabilities exceed its assets, and it lost $83 million in 2012.

Additionally, it has no lease for the land on which its Kingston facility is based.

Its website does not work.

Come on, Chairman Ewart Gilzean and General Manager Orville Lewinson - get some action going or resign.

In 2011, there was much talk about the divestment of this company. What is the current plan?

This column reviews the audited and in-house accounts and reports of companies and entities owned or influenced by Government.

Add your comments at Gleaner Online or email: editor@gleanerjm.com.

NSWMA

Responsible Officials

Minister: Noel Arscott

Chairman: Steve Ashley

Executive director: Jennifer Edwards

Other directors: Anne Shirley, Paul Lyn, Fitzroy Vidal, Hazel Anderson, Pershard Williams, Dinsdale Anglin, Bevon Morrison and Omar Sweeney

Last Accounts: Unknown