LETTER OF THE DAY - Audit rural water projects
THE EDITOR, Sir:
WATER PRODUCTION and distribution in the island of Jamaica must take centre stage. One only need to have taken an interest in the varying reports carried in The Gleaner last year to realise that the operation and maintenance of the water systems is not in the interest of consumers.
The dissatisfaction mainly demonstrated is no water available, very little water, low water pressure and exorbitant bills. Because of the above conditions, which are prevalent, community participation in rural water programme was introduced to communities which have these problems with water.
A number of communities was selected to participate in the programme. The main criterion is that the community should fall under quartile four on the poverty map, as defined by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, and sign a memorandum of understanding (mou) to stand 10 per cent of the cost of the project.
There was a number of communities that met all the requirements. The government, through the ministry of water and housing, set up a unit to facilitate the implementation of the Community Participation Project. The Project Implementation Unit needs to be investigated to determine whether its performance was in keeping with its mandate.
The rural water programme was funded by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, a portion of which is to fund the Community Participation Project by 90 per cent of cost. The projects should be made operational, complete with trained personnel to take over by the community, and provide water for customers at affordable rates and meet operational cost.
If the Community Participation in the Water programme was implemented in accordance with the MOU and the various training programmes in which the communities participated, there would be a great difference to what now exists.
The government must state its policy on social water - how available and affordable water can impact poverty alleviation and sanitation across the island.
All minor water supplies should be managed by community members, trained and supervised until the project is available.
All major water boards should have consumer affairs representatives. There must now be a forensic audit on all projects that come under the rural water programme.
I believe the Office of the Contractor General should take an interest in the project because hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.
I am, etc.,
C. L. James