MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western Mikael Phillips says the tedious procurement process has resulted in delays to well-needed projects at times, causing the scope of work to be increased due to infrastructure deterioration.
"I mean the process itself is cumbersome and the rules governing procurement. You have those that are recurring budgets and those that are capital expenditures that come in the budget book," he told the Jamaica Observer last Thursday.
Phillips pointed to the Public Investment Appraisal Branch (formerly the Public Investment Management Secretariat) (PIAB) is a branch of the Public Expenditure Division (PEX), which supports the Public Investment Management System (PIMS) by providing technical support and advice to the Public Investment Management Committee (PIMC), thereby facilitating effective pre-investment decision-making.
"With recurrent project expenditure, you know that the time frame for any project that is going to procurement is anywhere between six months to one year and it is just the guidelines that have been set out by the Ministry of Finance. With those that come through the capital, just like the Troy Bridge, has now to go through the PIAB of the Ministry of Finance," said Phillips.
Since the Troy Bridge collapsed in August 2021, schoolchildren and other residents have been using makeshift methods, including a fallen tree and a zipline comprising a rope and bucket to cross the river. The risky makeshift footbridge connects residents in the neighbouring communities of Cowick Park in north-western Manchester to Troy in southern Trelawny. Since the bridge collapsed, residents have had to use a 15-mile alternative commute for safety.
"That [PIAB] in itself takes quite a while when you read the handbook governing that. In essence, when you have a project and let us take, for example, the $40 million that each constituency got to do some roadworks in December, it is just now that the bulk of the constituencies are seeing any work being done," explained Phillips.
He pointed to constraints in dealing with the National Works Agency (NWA).
"Despite NWA will say that there are too many contracts that it had to prepare, but then the procurement process itself for each of these contracts took anywhere between four months going close to eight months now," said Phillips.
Phillips, who is also Opposition spokesperson on roads and works, said the delays result in cost overruns for projects.
"When you take so long, by the time that you get those resources to do the work that needs to be done, the costs would have increased in material, labour and the scope, if it is like a wall, because the situation has got worse and then when you go to the agency they are telling you that they have no more resources," he said.
"If there is to be any additional resources then it slows down the project," he added.
He suggested that there is a perception that every politician is a "thief".
"… And they start out with that in making the requirement so cumbersome that it hinders progress and just proper delivery of projects itself," said Phillips.