Prime Minister Andrew Holness has responded to the firestorm over the 600 million dollars de-bushing excersize now underway. Mr. Holness response came in a post from his official Facebook page. The post in its entirety is reproduce below. It reads:
Prime Minister Andrew Holness today (November 25) received a full brief of the ongoing Islandwide Mitigation Drain Cleaning Programme during a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency (NWA) E.G Hunter.
The programme is a preventative exercise to protect public health and civil infrastructure. It is a routine annual programme and has been conducted by successive governments. A similar project which cost $592 million (excluding fees) was done last year by the previous administration. The last mitigation programme was conducted in December 2015, under the JEEP model which was distributed on the priorities of the Members of Parliament.
This year, in light of the heavy rains and the threat of Zika, the administration announced in Parliament on November 2, a new islandwide mitigation programme. This programme is designed to continue to January 2017.
The advice given by the NWA is that the government would have to spend $3 billion to do a comprehensive de-bushing and drain cleaning exercise. Given budgetary constraints, the current programme was scoped for $548.45 million (excluding Agency fees) and is $44 million less, than was spent last year.
To secure value for money and effective implementation, the programme was allocated based on a field survey conducted by the NWA to determine urgent needs. The programme was therefore distributed on a parish basis on the NWA’s template of priorities, unlike the previous programme which was determined by the priorities of the Members of Parliament.
The NWA selected contractors using the Emergency Procurement Methodology of the Government of Jamaica Procurement guidelines and ensured the contractors were NCC certified at the grade one level and that they demonstrated a track record of performance and competence to guarantee that the work is done to the required standard and within the timeframe.
Prime Minister Holness instructed that given the level of political attention the NWA must redouble its efforts in the measurement and certification of the works completed to ensure value for money. The Prime Minister directed that no work should be paid for unless the NWA’s approved standards and protocols for payment are met.
The NWA is in the process of verifying the works already completed. However, given the continuous rains, the process has been delayed. To date, the NWA has only approved for payment $124 million to contractors. Therefore, it is expected that contractors are likely to make payments to workers by next week.
The Prime Minister says the government will be proactive in its efforts to clean up the environment to minimize health hazards and to protect civil infrastructure.