Millions for more bush-clearing
Millions of dollars more have been earmarked for spending on bush-clearing work and drain cleaning across the country as members of parliament (MPs) submit Christmas work projects for approval. This comes fast on the heels of the Government's $600 million debushing programme, now the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Contractor General.
When a plethora of Christmas projects were presented yesterday to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Committee of Parliament for approval, it did not escape the attention of one MP that his colleagues were about to spend millions on debushing and "beautification" despite a large spend by the Government in the run-up to the local government elections late last month.
Richard Azan, a CDF Committee member and a former state minister in charge of the National Works Agency (NWA), questioned why $3.5 million was being spent on temporary employment work in one constituency, which he labelled Christmas work. "I don't think we need any more Christmas work after $600-million work," Azan contended. "This is a waste of money!"
However, committee chairman Everald Warmington, who is the current state minister in charge of the NWA, said that the national clean-up exercise concentrated on the central government roads and not the parish council roads.
"I am sure the implementing agency, particularly the National Works Agency, would not go out there and give work on a road that has already been done," he said.
Responding, Azan said that the NWA does not carry out work on parish council roads, but Warmington countered by saying that the agency does Christmas projects on parish council roads.
Things got heated in the committee meeting after head of the CDF Unit, Moveta Monroe said, sotto voce, that Azan was speaking "foolishness".
Hitting back, Azan said: "It's not foolishness, Ms Monroe! I have a right to ask any question I want to ask."
SEVERAL PROJECTS APPROVED
Several Christmas work programmes were approved by the committee yesterday, including a South West St Ann project for the maintenance of verges, embankments, and the restoration of town centres, for $2.9 million; the St Catherine North Eastern special employment and income-generation project, for $2.9 million; and the St Catherine West Central special employment and beautification programme, for $3.5 million.
In the case of St Catherine West Central, Warmington said that many of the roads in the constituency had already been dealt with under the $600-million debushing exercise. However, he surmised that MP for the constituency Dr Christopher Tufton might have submitted the project before the national programme was carried out.
Other Christmas-related projects include the St Andrew East Rural employment generation and beautification exercise, at a cost of $3.5 million; drain-cleaning and Christmas bushing in St Ann South East, for $1.9 million; St Catherine East Central special employment and beautification programme, at a cost of $2.9 million; North East Manchester Christmas work, for $3.5 million; Christmas beautification programme in western St Thomas, for $3.4 million; and St Elizabeth North Western Christmas programme, for $3 million.
The NWA confirmed that the OCG had requested information from the agency regarding the November $600-million debushing programme.