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Phillips warns against equal distribution of funds to councillors

Published:Wednesday | May 27, 2015 | 12:34 PM

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips has strongly warned against a proposal from opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Karl Samuda for parish councillors to get a prescribed, equal allocation of funds to do work in their divisions.

"We have to find ways to separate the issues of representation from the issue of just having a money to spend," Phillips said as he argued against the equal distribution of funds for parish council divisions.

Samuda, speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said that in the same way MPs get a prescribed allocation under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), to do infrastructure works in their constituencies, councillors too should be given a similar treatment.

Each of the 63 MP is allocated $10 million under the JEEP programme.

Some 152 million was recently shared among the country's 14 municipalities under JEEP Four which was implemented under the Major Development Infrastructure Programme.

Dr Omar Davies, the works minister, said that the councils decided which divisions received the funds. There are 228 parish council divisions across the island.

"There is no single parish council that has any higher right to the kinds of repairs that are needed in their divisions. I would have thought that an equitable distribution per parish council, in the same way that you have per constituency ... . If you don't have that, you are showing preeminent right to the MP that is not shown to the parish councillor," Samuda said.

"It is time that we get away from this unilateral division of resources for the parish council and allocate them on an equitable basis, across the board," he added.

"Don't arbitrarily decide who gets what, where and when. Establish a structure within which all parish council must comply so it is not left to some member using the corridor for favouritism," Samuda said.

could lead to inefficiency

But Phillips disagreed with the suggestion, saying that it could lead to inefficiency.

"We have to be careful about an approach, which has been followed in many respects, which says we must give every person an amount of money to spend. That has the appearance of equity, but at the same time it can be counterproductive to the actual task of improving infrastructure," Phillips said.

"It may be that there is a vital road in Central Clarendon that involves hundreds of dollars of expenditure, and provides an essential function, but will never get done if you decide that you are just going to give out a money to each place," he added.

Meanwhile, Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell, who is head of the Association of Local Government Authorities, said the association was in favour of distribution of funds to parish councils based on a similar method used under the parochial revenue fund (PRF).

"All 14 local authorities should receive a particular allocation and then they decide how it is allocated. Samuda wants it to go to all divisions but I don't want to go that route," Barnswell told The Gleaner.

"We would rather it to operate similar to the PRF were the allocation is based on the number of kilometre of roads in your local authority and then the councils would sit and decide how to execute," he added.