$1.5 billion allocation for secondary road repairs forces NWA to prioritise
It would cost approximately $8 billion to carry out the maintenance work needed on nearly 70 per cent of the nation's secondary roadways, an assessment conducted by the National Works Agency (NWA) has revealed.
Executive Director of the NWA E.G. Hunter made the disclosure yesterday, days after it was revealed in the Second Supplementary Estimates that the Andrew Holness administration had allocated $1.5 billion for the maintenance of secondary roadways in the current fiscal year.
A breakdown of the allocation shows that $1.2 billion is to finance what has been labelled the "islandwide Special Road Repairs Programme"; $200 million is for the clearing of drains; and $150 million is for the removal of landslides, patching, "and other repairs to roads affected by rain events".
"If I were to be provided with $8 billion under this heading, then we would all be very happy, and there would be no contention," Hunter told lawmakers when he appeared before the Public Appropriations and Administration Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, which met yesterday to examine the Second Supplementary Estimates that was tabled on Tuesday.
But with the allocation less than a quarter of the amount required, Hunter said that the NWA would have to figure out which roads would get priority.
"We will now sit down, sharpen our pencils, and fine-tune the [maintenance] programme that we intend to implement with these funds," he said.
SHOPPING LIST IS SIGNIFICANT
As a result, Hunter requested and was permitted to provide the PAAC with a list of roads that could be given priority by next Wednesday.
Hunter and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell, who also appeared before the PAAC, revealed that as part of the needs assessment conducted by the NWA, members of parliament (MPs) were asked to submit a list of roadways in their constituencies that were in need of repairs.
"And we got the shopping list, and it is significant," Sewell said of the response from MPs.
"But it is significantly more than what the Ministry of Finance can afford at this particular time. So we will have to sit down, look at the list, look at priorities and also consult again with members of parliament to determine what the priorities are," she added.
Hunter revealed, also, that no special procurement rules were attached to the disbursement of the $1.2 billion. "So it has to go through the normal [Government of Jamaica] process," he said, noting that the government procurement process could take up to 15 months "on the good side".
"So if we intend to spend this money in the time allotted, we have to be clever in project selection," the NWA boss warned parliamentarians.
He cautioned, "Good planning will require that we identify the projects to be done under this heading, and the costs for these projects have to be of such magnitude to fit into the procurement process."