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Equal parts of JEEP would be wasteful - Barnswell

Published:Thursday | September 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Scean Barnswell, president of the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA), said yesterday that it could be a "potential waste" of funds to equally divide $140 million earmarked under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) among all the country's 228 parish councillors.

Barnswell said that it takes approximately $2 million to rehabilitate 300m of road, and that the $614,000 which each councillor would receive if the money is divided equally, could hardly implement a project.

"It would be a waste," Barnswell said.

Lucille Brodber, head of the JEEP secretariat, revealed at a parliamentary committee meeting that JEEP was set to get a new dimension through the allocation of funds to local government authorities.

Discussions with minister

Barnswell told The Gleaner that parish councils across the island had been in discussions with works minister Dr Omar Davies for a place on the JEEP. He said the demand for inclusion was based on the fact that parish councils had given up 50 per cent of their Parochial Revenue Fund for six months in order to assist the Government to ink a deal with the China EX-IM bank for the funding of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP).

According to Barnswell, the promised attention to parish council roads did not materialise despite the sacrifice. He has expressed the hope that the $140 million JEEP component would become a reality.

Brodber told Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament that since the inception of the JEEP in 2012, parish councillors have been asking for a component. She said the funds allocated to the councils have not yet been spent as the methodology for such spending has not been worked out.

"Initially, it is the minister's feeling and ours that the parish councillors should match this money and come up with suitable projects," Brodber said.

She said the system that is being contemplated is that funds will be sent to local authorities based on the number of divisions in a parish.

Committee member Audley Shaw suggested that the funds be divided equally and given to each councillor.

"If you leave it up to the discretion of the councils ..., it could lead to victimisation ... . I don't like it. Every division in this country has the same problems; drains need to be cleaned, verges need to be bushed, culverts need to be cleared. Everybody has the same problems, divide up the money equally."

That, however, was not the feeling of Fitz Jackson, who said "if it gets too parochial, nothing important gets done".