Audit: St Catherine Municipal Corporation using 1975 list for road repairs

Audit: St Catherine Municipal Corporation using 1975 list for road repairs

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 31, 2020

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Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis has expressed concern that the St Catherine Municipal Corporation (SCMC) is spending billions of dollars repairing parochial roads with no idea if it is getting value for money, or if it is targeting the roads most in need of repair.

In what she described as the third in the series of reviews on road management in Jamaica, focusing on the parochial road networks and related infrastructure, Monroe Ellis indicated that all was not well in the SCMC's handling of the roads in the parish.

According to Monroe Ellis, the audit revealed that the SCMC could not demonstrate that it provided strategic direction to enable it to achieve its objectives, as it did not establish goals and performance targets to guide its operation.

“The input of the public was not sought in determining the strategic direction of the corporation and the prioritisation of limited resources, contrary to the Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) Act,” said Monroe Ellis.

“Planning for the management of the parochial road network was deficient in a context where the SCMC was unaware of the full extent of the network and condition of the roads under its purview, and did not have a transparent process of determining works to be carried out under the roads in the parish, divisional allocation and “lengthman” programmes.

“Further, deficiencies in record-keeping limited verification that funds allocated from the Parochial Revenue Fund (PRF) were appropriately spent,” Monroe Ellis added.

She noted that the SCMC presented limited information to her office regarding its contract activities and could not readily provide a list of the contracts entered into during the period under review (2014-2019), due to the absence of a contract register.

“The weaknesses in SCMC's control system hindered our determination of whether full value for money was received for expenditure on road and maintenance works carried out under the roads in the parish, divisional allocation and lengthman programmes. We found that SCMC did not have objective criteria to determine the allocation of the resources to rehabilitate roads in a transparent and efficient manner,” declared Monroe Ellis.

She rapped the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development (MLGCD) for is failure to ensure that the SCMC provided it with the required strategic development plans.

“With no agreed strategic plan and targets, SCMC reported to … the MLGCD only on the activities undertaken on a monthly basis in order to obtain the monthly draw down of funds from the PRF,” said Monroe Ellis, as she noted that the parent ministry would not have had an objective basis against which to evaluate performance of the SCMC.

“This deficiency highlighted the inadequate oversight and performance monitoring of SCMC's operations by the portfolio ministry,” said Monroe Ellis.

The auditor general further noted that the SCMC did not know the full extent of the network and condition of the roads under its purview, owing to the absence of an up-to-date parochial roads inventory record.

“As an essential first step to the management of the road network under its jurisdiction, and consistent with its mandate to maintain parochial roads, the SCMC should maintain an updated inventory of roads, which includes at a minimum, the roads' location, condition and changes to the pattern and frequency of use.

“Instead, SCMC submitted a list comprising 396 parochial roads totalling 784.92 km for the parish of St Catherine that was [almost] four decades old, dating back to 1975. The list did not capture information for new subdivisions that would have added new roads and increased road usage,” said Monroe Ellis.

She indicated that after the audit by her office the SCMC indicated that it would, “seek to develop a Road Inventory Management System in collaboration with the MLGCD, to better manage the parochial road network, to better guide the prioritisation of resources consistent with the corporate plan”.

The auditor general reported that over the period 2014-2015 to 2018-2019, the MLGCD disbursed $2.089 billion, whilst the SCMC reported expenditure of $2.013 billion from the PRF to carry out works on parochial roads.

The SCMC also received monies for road maintenance from the Equalization Fund totalling $191.5 million.


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