National Farm Roads Programme to be reformed

National Farm Roads Programme to be reformed

Saturday, December 07, 2019

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THE Government has announced plans to restructure its National Farm Roads Programme, following an assessment conducted by the Auditor General's Department in October.

It was found, during the assessment, that the Rural Agricultural Development Authority's (RADA) process of selecting contractors for the programme was not always transparent or competitive.

Speaking at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries' quarterly press briefing Thursday, minister without portfolio JC Hutchinson said that several issues with the programme were identified.

“…Based on the auditor's general report, we expect to do some restructuring of the programme so there can be more accountability and transparency. This is to address the concerns and recommendations of the auditor general's report, and the concerns and feedback from farmers in the various areas where roads have been completed, said Hutchinson.

He added: “We have found out that the qualities of the roads are not up to standard and we have found that, in some instances, the roads have been done on some hills and no drainage put in place, and so forth,” he said.

“Under the programme, to date, 250 roads have been improved islandwide, benefiting 15,934 farmers. To date $1.849 billion has been expended on this programme, which has, in the years 2015-2016, repaired 30 roads at a cost of $382 million,” he said.

He further stated that 54 roads were repaired at $262 million from 2016 to 2017, while 61 roads were repaired at $370 million from 2017 to 2018, and 81 roads were repaired at $656 million from 2018-2019.

Additionally, the Cabinet minister said over the entire period – from 2015 to present – “the scope of work undertaken under the programme included clearing, reshaping, grading, double-surfacing and concrete asphalt and drains”.

Said Hutchinson: “We have found that no bushing has been done by RADA anywhere throughout the island. It has been roads that have been rehabilitated. And we have spent $1.8 billion over four years, not for one parish or in one year.”

In the meantime, Minister of of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw, speaking at the press conference, said: “Following the recent report by the auditor general on this programme, we note the exuberance of the Opposition in its public misinterpretation of the situation. We wish to assure the nation that the ministry is now examining the genuine recommendation of the AG regarding this very important programme that so critically impacts agricultural infrastructure and rural development.”

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