Christmas programme corrupt and inefficient — JLP’s Chang
Western Bureau: The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate for North West St James, Dr Horace Chang, has accused the St James parish council of running a “corrupt and inefficient” Christmas work programme.
“This programme is used to line the pockets of the politically connected with only crumbs reaching the poor for which it is intended. Montego Bay needs better than this,” he said.
“It is now felt that much money is spent but little work done, increased efficiency and integrity could give big benefits to Montego Bay.”
But deputy mayor, Gerard Mitchell, took issue with Chang’s accusation.
“It is not just giving away money. It is a programme that is designed to ensure value for money and create some levels of employment for persons in order for them to be able to provide some of the basic necessities in the Christmas period,” Mitchell said.
He added that the programme had been in existence since the 1940s and that each year, the work, including drain cleaning, road maintenance and bushing, was checked by the council’s roads and works department before money was paid out to workers.
Meanwhile, Dr Chang also called on the council to use the $9 million in property taxes and licensing fees collected to facilitate infrastructure improvement in Montego Bay.
“I am calling on the local government authority to utilise the funds derived from property tax and licence fees, of which some $9 million was recently returned to the parish council, especially for (infrastructure) improvement,” Chang said.
He suggested that the property tax and licenses fees, as well as funds from travel tax should be put into a city trust fund that would be managed by the council with input and advice from the private sector.
The JLP caretaker also contended that the government should allocate a percentage of the travel tax from the Sangster International Airport, as well as the proceeds from the parish’s room taxes, for infrastructure upgrading work and beautification of the city.
But the deputy mayor has shot down his proposals.
According to Mitchell, the parish council had already implemented the measures which are now being proposed by Chang regarding property tax allocations.
“It’s either that he’s speaking from a position of ignorance or he’s seeking to score political points,” Mitchell told the Observer. “Property tax is used for solid waste management, which includes garbage collection and street lights (while) licence fees are used for road maintenance and drain cleaning and beautification.”
As for the establishment of the trust fund, Mitchell said he did not view such a proposal as “workable”.
“I don’t know that is a workable solution. What we need is transparency and accountability and the Parish Development Committee, which has been established under the local government reform and for the strengthening of civil society is designed toward that objective,” he said.