Jamaican Road Project Scandalous! Could the same be happening here in the Bahamas

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The poorly managed works now underway across New Providence. FILE PHOTO...

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

“It’s scandalous,” declared Opposition Member of Parliament Everald Warmington after hearing that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, of which he was a member, presided over an almost total commitment of Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) funds.

Dr Omar Davies, the new minister of transport, works and housing, told the House of Representatives yesterday that only US$1.8 million of the US$400-million road programme’s funds have not been used up or committed.

“As at December 2011, the combination of funds actually disbursed, work orders certified for payment and the value of works committed, amounts to just over US$389 million,” Davies said.

“This means that, if as minister, I accepted the status quo, all but US$1.8 million of the US$400-million loan which was scheduled to be expended over a five-year programme would have been completely committed before the end of the second year of the programme,” Davies added.

The fiery Warmington, who is known for breaking ranks with his party in the House, said his comments about the use of the JDIP funds are appropriate “If it (what Davies has said) is so”.

“I don’t take it back,” he added, stressing that he was alarmed by the revelations.

US$209 spent

Davies told the House that up to December, payments made under the project combined with the value of work orders, which have been certified for payment, amounted to US$209.6 million. He also said information presented to him by officials of the National Works Agency indicates that additional funds have been committed for US$188.5 million.

In the meantime, former finance minister, now opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw said the impression was being given to the House that US$389 million has been used up.

“The minister by his own admission has said that the remaining US$188 million would be subject to his review or possible reassignment, realignment … . I simply want to establish that and to say that the Opposition awaits the detailed report of the audit,” Shaw said.

Davies, however, stressed that, he had not suggested that the total sum had been expended.

He said he would review the JDIP and “make alterations to the scope and put right all the things which are wrong about the way the project has been handled”.

Davies also lamented what could have been, had the government of the day acceded to a request to have the JDIP included in the Budget.

“I feel obliged to say, if this House had acted as one during the standing finance committee, it would never have been brought to this stage,” Davies said.

Meanwhile, Mike Henry, who was forced to leave the job as transport and works minister toward the end of the JLP’s term in office last year, has served notice that he would be defending his stewardship of JDIP.

“As a responsible minister and having been given these details today, and being myself not the shadow spokesperson, I intend to request, and I will be coming back with a series of questions of the minister to clarify a lot of these issue as to how much of these figures are themselves correct in terms of the interpretation he is giving,” Henry said.

“As soon as I have analysed this, I will come back with a series of questions which I hope the minister will then answer,” he added.

“I would have hoped we would have started the forensic audit much earlier, and I look forward to it being implemented speedily because certainly all the answers will lie in how you audit and the process of auditing rather than a pre-judged approach in respect of the project,” Henry said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com