NSWMA closer to being relieved of operational functions
NSWMA workers remove debris that was used by residents to block sections of Grants Pen Road in this December 2021 file photo.

PERMANENT secretary in the ministry of local government and rural development Marsha Martin Henry has given some indication that the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) could be closer to being relieved of its operational functions to allow it to focus solely on regulatory work.

She told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has sponsored the engagement of a consultant on the implementation of plans to relieve the NSWMA of its operational role and allow it to function on the regulatory aspect of solid waste management.

Martin Henry noted that there is now a shortlist of consultants who will be invited to make proposals.

"The specific details I don't have here, but at the end of it we are expecting to see a solid waste management authority that has the requisite structure to support the implementation of the regulations and the law as established. We anticipate that by next year that document should be fully prepared and read," she advised the committee. She noted that this is one aspect of the work being undertaken through the enterprise team which was established in 2016, to map out the privatisation of the NSWMA.

The management of the agency and its parent ministry were responding to the findings of a performance audit of the NSWMA, which was carried out by the Auditor General's Department for the financial years 2016/2017 and 2021/22. The report was tabled on July 26 in Parliament.

The audit found that the necessary regulations to fully establish the NSWMA as a regulatory body were not in place, and noted that without the supporting regulations, the country was at risk of not achieving its national goal to 'manage all forms of waste effectively' within another eight years. It highlighted poor implementation of the framework for effective management of solid waste; insufficient resources for solid waste management, which were made worse by governance and operational weaknesses, which contributed to inefficient waste collection and disposal.

Meanwhile, executive director of the NSWMA Audley Gordon reiterated that the authority has been stymied by inadequate funding, and a temporary legal framework.

"The NSWMA has suffered over the years from a warped policy perspective," he said, pointing out that the temporary framework has carried on for 20 years, "so you get a temporary job for 20 years and the treatment in terms of budgetary support over those 20 years reflects the fact that the society has never taken solid waste management seriously".

He said a robust sustained public education programme that is required to change requires money, as the piecemeal approach does not work and has failed over the years to garner the kind of change that is needed in the citizenry towards (household and commercial) waste management and disposal."We are never able to sustain a campaign to educate our people as to better waste management habits. So you will have a pilot, you see some change for a while but very soon people go back to their old ways," he remarked, pointing out that divestment of the NSWMA should have happened long ago to rid the authority of operational responsibility and allow it to focus on regulatory work.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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