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No end to garbage collection crisis

Taxpayers to pay millions to keep NSWMA fleet running

HG Helps

Sunday, September 23, 2012    

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ONLY 11 of the National Solid Waste Management Agency's (NSWMA) 62 garbage trucks that serve the Kingston Metropolitan region are roadworthy.

At the garage along Hagley Park Road, 26 garbage collection units are all awaiting parts, which, a month ago, were estimated to cost $67 million, not including tyres and batteries, which most of them need.

The NSWMA has been forced to hire more than 60 private trucks to help in the collection of garbage in the Kingston Metropolitan Region, which includes the Jamaican capital, St Catherine and St Thomas.

The NSWMA moves over 53 tonnes of garbage from the densely populated Kingston Metropolitan Region each month, far more than any other section of the island.

Garbage disposal for Montego Bay and the wider St James, amounts to an average of 16 tonnes monthly, according to NSWMA figures, while it is far less in towns like Ocho Rios and Mandeville which moves six tonnes each monthly.

Those regions, too, are under pressure with limited garbage trucks, as only a half of Montego Bay's 17 units are in operation. Mandeville and Ocho Rios have 12 units each.

"We are under immense pressure in moving garbage across the island, because we do not have the trucks to do that," said an NSWMA employee, who declined to be identified as he said that he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the agency.

"When you consider that the NSWMA's budget suffered a massive cut this fiscal year, and we were strapped for cash before, you know that we are in trouble," the employee said.

The NSWMA makes nothing from the collection of household garbage, as such an activity is pegged directly to the payment of property taxes by homeowners, which part-fund the operations of the agency.

However, there are huge sums to be made from moving commercial garbage from business places; including supermarkets, large restaurants, entertainment facilities, among others.

The shortage of units has rendered the agency useless in pushing its neck out as it gets only a small percentage of the business of collecting commercial waste, which officials say only assists in paying some of its "household bills".

"If we are able to get our fleet back to where they were five or six years ago, we would go a far way in being self-sufficient, because we could make money off commercial garbage disposal," the official said.

The agency is often the target of public rancour from residents of the Corporate Area in particular, where complaints about uncollected garbage flow fast and furious.

Apart from the Seddon Atkinson-make vehicles, the agency has in its fleet units made by Renault of France, Hyundai of Korea and American-made Isuzu.

The NSWMA, too, has a high percentage of its fleet of service vehicles, mainly Suzuki Vitara and Jimny sport utility vehicles, languishing in garages across Kingston in need of repair.

Officials of the company said that some of them had not been serviced for over three years and had developed major mechanical and electrical problems.

Scandal-laced news is not foreign to the NSWMA. Last June, police arrested and charged former Special Projects Manager Mark Rodney after the 34-year-old Linstead, St Catherine, native was accused of defrauding the agency of several million dollars.

Rodney, a former member of the Jamaica Labour Party-affiliate youth organisation, Young Jamaica, was fired in January after the new political Administration took office and conducted a forensic audit into the operations of the organisation.

Rodney, who was accused of breaching the Corruption Prevention and Proceeds of Crime Acts, for allegedly awarding contracts to a company that he operated, thus bypassing the tendering process, is out on $10-million bail.

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