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TPDCo fails to spends 85% of capital budget

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 13, 2014    

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THE Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of the House of Representatives has demanded an explanation from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) on why it has only spent 15 per cent of its special projects budget for 2013/14, up to January.

"This is unacceptable, totally unacceptable," said Opposition MP and spokesman on finance and planning, Audley Shaw, in reference to the fact that only between three per cent and 27 per cent was spent from the budgeted figures for the 27 special projects primarily financed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

TPDCo is chaired by former minister of education, Maxine Henry-Wilson.

Budget submissions to the PAAC from TPDCo showed that the bulk of the money spent over the first nine months of the financial year was related to compensation for its employees. Approximately 75 per cent of its $366 million in expenditure went to paying salaries and allowances; 15.6 per cent for rent and utilities bills; and only 9.88 per cent went into capital expenditure.

Of an additional $616 million received by TPDCo for implementation of 27 special projects across the island, in which it has been partnering with the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), to date, only $94 million or 15.2 per cent of that budget has been spent.

In comments prepared for the committee, its World Bank-paid consultant economic adviser, Earl Bartley, questioned whether the country was even getting "value or volume" of activity from the $360 million which was spent on salaries.

The submission from TPDCo showed that the Kingston Metropolitan Area, which should have been benefiting to the tune of $393 million from TEF/TPDCo-partnered projects, has so far benefited from $4.6 million or 11.8 per cent of the budget; Montego Bay, which has approximately $101 million allocated for its projects, benefited from $3.6 million; and the south coast, which should has $115.7 million in projects, had only $10.4 million, or nine per cent of its budget spent during the nine months.

"Clearly what is happening here is that the bureaucracy is tripping over itself. Projects are languishing and that is compromising the purpose for which the projects were intended," Shaw stated.

"They have not been implemented, people are unable to get jobs; people need jobs, jobs, jobs or projects to develop the tourism product. What's going on?... Where is the bottleneck?" Shaw questioned.

PAAC chairman, Edmund Bartlett, who first raised the issue of the low level of expenditure, said that the figures jumped at him when he looked at the submission. "It's unbelievable," Bartlett told the meeting.

Government MP, Lloyd B Smith, who also raised concerns, suggested that a number of the responses made by TPDCo's executive director, Dennis Hickey, were purely "semantics". He said that, in addition, many TPDCo projects appeared "chaka chaka" (not properly done).

Hickey told the committee that most of the funding for the projects came from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which is financed by the tax collected from incoming airline and cruise passengers and placed into a dedicated fund to be used for implementing the recommendations from the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development,

"Many of these projects are with other agencies, including the parish councils and the UDC, and once they are given to these agencies, it requires the strong collaboration I am bringing to the process to be able to move the process," Hickey said.

Shaw said that the committee should demand nothing less than "detailed reasons" for the failure to implement the projects, while Bartlett said that the TPDCo would have to return to the next meeting of the PAAC with the details.

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