Good idea, poorly executed

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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We note that the Ministry of National Security, this week, handed over 70 new and pre-owned motor vehicles to the Jamaica Constabulary Force — better late than never, the optimists may say.

But worthy of further comment is the cock-up that has characterised what was a good idea.

We remember too well the announcement in 2016 by National Security Minister Robert “Bobby” Montague of the intent to purchase pre-owned vehicles for the force.

While there was scepticism, it was felt, in some quarters, that it was an acknowledgement of the status of a country trying to drag itself back from the edge of the precipice. Plus, there was no opposing the need to improve the mobility of the police force.

But, alas, Jamaicans have been known to be masters at the conception of great ideas; we, however, have a history of haphazard execution.

Despite whatever speeches Minister Montague may make in his own defence, there is no denying the shambolic management of this contract valued at $242 million of taxpayers' money — funds secured from proceeds of the first phase of the recent traffic ticket amnesty.

This batch of vehicles represents a portion of the 119 units to be handed over to the police based on the agreement and we hear more are to be handed over soon to complete the order. We wait.

What must rise to the top, though, is that too often government contracts are awarded to firms or individuals who fail to live up to their end of the bargain. The result has been unfinished projects, overruns, and growing mistrust of the Government's ability to honourably administer the public purse.

Minister Montague has declared that no procurement guidelines were breached in this muddle, so it is hoped that the Ministry of National Security would have learnt from the experience of this most public embarrassment and will see to it that any future effort on the road to securing vehicles for the crime fight will not face similar potholes.

What's more, since the start of the year, a total of 401 vehicles have been handed over to the police, according to Mr Montague. Consequently, there must begin a conversation on how well the law enforcers have managed and maintained this allotment.

Commissioner of Police George Quallo and others of the police high command must audit the state of the force's mobile support to see if we are simply throwing more vehicles on the scrap heap because policemen and women do not take care of the vehicles whenever they are assigned.

There must be a stated responsibility to ensure that the vehicles are cared for, and that the force and country benefit from a useful lifetime for the investment. A mere wish and hope that the vehicles are properly utilised and maintained is not enough. There must be consequences for misuse and abuse.

These 70 vehicles, and the ones in transit, have gone through a lot to get to this point. It must not be a waste.




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