MP raises concerns about quality of NWA roadwork

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, March 16, 2018

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CONCERNS were raised on Wednesday about the quality of some in-house roadwork being carried out by the National Works Agency (NWA) at a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, during discussions on the additional $1 billion allocated to the agency in the Government's second supplementary budget for this financial year.

St Andrew East Rural Member of Parliament (MP) Juliet Holness complained that there have been concerns about the calibre of work in her constituency.

“I get numerous complaints for work done under force account and I am finding it challenging to explain to constituents that it is the Government of Jamaica that is fixing their road.

“The work that we are doing sometimes does not stand up as much as it does when the private contractors do it,” Holness said. “I have actually come down to NWA to lodge my complaint. We should make sure that in doing this programme and others, going forward, that we make a double case for force accounts being the way to go by getting that profit savings, but ensuring the quality of the work that is done stands up to the test of time,” she stated.

NWA Chief Executive Officer EG Hunter had explained that the majority of the works will be done in-house to save on contract costs. He said the agency was seeking to enforce quality by using a monitoring mechanism for specific patches of roadwork.

“What we have decided to do is select some of the patches and they will be marked, photographed, and they will be logged in terms of when it was done and we will check them on a schedule to be determined, for a period to be determined, so that empirically, I can say this is the condition when we started, this is the condition after 12 months; so that for the first time we will have data in terms of what we do and how that has survived over time,” he stressed.

The CEO noted that the agency had seen it fit to use the force accounting system to carry out the projects as, with just over two weeks to go before the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year, it will prove challenging to go to the contracting system and have the works wrapped up on time.

“Traditionally, what we do is award small contracts to small contractors and if it's 100 interventions, then 100 contractors would make a hundred purchases of asphalt [and] crust stone, and obviously there is a transaction cost associated with doing business that way,” he explained.

The NWA will therefore be handling the purchasing of material centrally, which is expected to account for half of the expenditure.

He further informed the committee that between 17 and 20 per cent or $170 million to $200 million of the allocation will be spent on drain cleaning.

So far, 14 per cent of the works have been programmed for St Catherine, 12 per cent for Kingston, eight per cent for St Andrew, seven per cent for St Mary, and 11 per cent for Clarendon.

“We intend to do some of this work in the non-urban areas… this programme is not yet cast in asphalt,” he added.

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