Columns

St Thomas leads in copper cable theft

KEN CHAPLIN

Tuesday, December 18, 2012    

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LANDLINE telephone subscribers and other members of the public need to join the police and LIME in waging a relentless battle against robbers of that company's copper cables and other articles of metal. The robbery has been disrupting the country's main telecommunications system since the beginning of this year and causing serious problems, especially for those who use landline service and the internet to work at home.

The matter is so serious that members of the public should look out for these thieves and call the police. LIME should also offer rewards to any member of the public whose information leads to the trial and conviction of anyone found guilty of larceny and destruction of their property.

Continuing their nefarious activities, thieves struck two weeks ago when they removed sections of the cable serving 166 customers in Sherbourne Heights, including Rodwell Terrace, Baden Court, Armour Close, Sherbourne Park and other areas in West Rural St Andrew such as Pear Hill, Guava Gap and areas such as Mount Salus and Upper Mannings Road. Cables were also stolen in Lawrence Tavern, leaving 82 customers in Castleton, Belmont and Maloney without landlines and internet service.

The company says it regrets the inconvenience caused to the customers by the foul deeds of others. "We have been making attempts to contact our customers to let them know what is happening. However, it was difficult to reach some of them."

The company recorded 37 incidents between August and November following the government's announcement in June that the trade is to be re-opened. Prior to that date there were 16 incidents between April and July. Besides the theft of over $6.5 million worth of cables from downed and restored poles following the passage of Hurricane Sandy, thieves have made off with $28 million worth of cables since the beginning of the year.

On average, it costs LIME close to $1 million per incident to repair and replace stolen cables. This figure does not include lost revenue due to service outages and rebate to customers. Between January and December 7, this year LIME has lost over $300 million to copper cable theft. When that amount is broken down parish by parish, the top three parishes are St Thomas - $81 million; St Ann - $60 million, and St Catherine - $53 million.

Why is the theft of copper cables continuing since the government has already declared that it will not be allowing such exports whenever the trade resumes? The answer could be is that there are some rogue exporters out there who believe they can beat the government's embargo.

OCG and govt await court decision

The Office of the Contractor General on Friday submitted to the Houses of Parliament a Special Report in which it expressed "grave concern" of the failure of the Cabinet over the last seven months to comply with several lawful requisitions which have been issued in respect of the provision of information relating to, among other things, four major projects which were being pursued by the government.

In a statement the OCG said it deemed it necessary to bring these major concerns to the direct attention of Parliament. As a commission of Parliament established by statute to monitor and investigate certain government expenditures, it was necessary to point out to Parliament the gravity and seriousness of the matters which remain pertinent to the OCG.

Against the background of public transparency, the recognition of the importance of the oversight responsibilities which are accorded to a contractor general by the Contractor General Act, and in keeping with the settled law which was handed down by the Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence v Ministry of Construction (Works) and the AG in 1991, the report was submitted to Parliament, based upon the gravity and seriousness of the matters which remain pertinent to the OCG's monitoring and investigative mandates. The court held that "economic development and probity in government and contracting transactions can exist, a balance which must be a priority once any government is committed to the fundamental good governance principles of value for money, accountability and transparency".

Institutions such as the OCG were established to be independent "checks and balances" to ensure the efficient use of scarce resources. Therefore, the OCG considers the execution of the OCG's mandates and obligations, as prescribed by the Contractor General Act, to be of critical import in the conduct of the nation's procurement, licensing and asset activities. All this is true.

However, a question of interpretation of the law concerning the power of the contractor general has arisen and is now before the Supreme Court. It is the duty of the court to interpret the law. Let us await the decision of the court.

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