JA waste management group in scandal

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Contractor General Derrick McKoy has painted a damning picture of mismanagement at the National Solid Waste Management Authority, accusing former officers of presiding over nearly $2 billion in contract breaches.

In a report tabled in Parliament yesterday, the Contractor General, not mincing words, said while he found no evidence to suggest that the Alston Stewart-led board and management team had used their positions for personal gain, he was disturbed by what he saw as clear violations of the rule of law.

“There was a flagrant disregard by the authority’s board and management of the Government’s procedures and policies as they relate to procurement and accountability,” the Contractor General said.

“The rejection of the principle of accountability, especially as it relates to the portfolio Ministry and to the Permanent Secretary, has resulted in a breakdown of governance for which the board and management are responsible.”

Mr. McKoy said while it was clear that Mr. Stewart, in his role as executive chairman, was advised on a number of occasions of the need for the NSWMA to follow the procedures outlined by the National Contracts Commission (NCC), as they relate to how contracts are awarded, he had chosen not to act. Mr. Stewart, he said, responded on one occasion by saying “I will take full responsibility for these contracts.”

Mr. Stewart, who steadfastly has defended his management style during his tenure at the NSWMA, even going as far as to tell his detractors to produce the evidence of mismanagement or to shut their ‘damn mouths’, said yesterday that he would not be commenting on the report.

“I have not seen the report and even if I did I would not be commenting,” he said. “I have closed that chapter of my life … I have moved on.”

Mr. Stewart and the entire NSWMA board resigned several months ago on the recommendation of Local Government Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

The Contractor General also made reference to two contracts awarded to Charles Wood of Charsal Marketing Inc., totalling $9.9 million, that did not conform to the Public Sector Procurement Guidelines, nor receive NCC endorsement. Mr. Wood is the brother of Tourism Minister Aloun Assamba.

In December last year, his company was also accused of receiving a lucrative government contract to supply fixtures and fittings to the Sandals Whitehouse Hotel in Westmoreland without having to go through competitive bidding. Mr. Wood denied the charge, saying he was given the contract on merit and not based on his relationship with the Tourism Minister.

The Contractor General was also very critical of the arrangement between Denzil McDonald of Melrose Farm and the NSWMA, describing it as conflicting and one which requires “further review and investigation.”

“Internal auditors have reported that claims from Melrose Farms for equipment rental were paid without the requisite time sheets being submitted to substantiate these claims,” Mr. McKoy said.

“Internal auditors have reported that claims from Melrose Farms for equipment rental were paid without the requisite time sheets being submitted to substantiate these claims,” Mr. McKoy said.

“The equipment logbook for the Riverton Landfill shows that the D9 Bulldozer and the 966E Front End Loader rented from Melrose Farms worked for 16 hours and 12 hours respectively, continuously, for a period of six months.”

“Checks made with several entities that are familiar with the operation of equipment of this nature, including members of the bauxite industry, revealed that it would be near impossible to operate these machines in this manner as the maintenance regime required would not accommodate it,” the Contractor General said.

He continued: “This is true, even under conditions less severe than at a landfill. Further the minimum maintenance regime recommended is consistent with those currently utilised by the NSWMA on their equipment. The NSWMA has made payments on unsubstantiated records and for what appears to be unrealistic operational hours.”

Mr. McDonald, while admitting to being “genetically connected to the governing People’s National Party (PNP), has maintained that his dealings with the NSWMA have always been aboveboard, saying the $84 million he received from the NSWMA over a two-year period represented ‘value for money’.

Of the nearly $2 billion in contract breaches, $1.4 billion, Mr. McKoy said, was for collection and sweeping contracts, $401 million for maintenance services, $35 million for motor vehicles and $25 million for consultancy services.

The Contractor General said the flagrant disregard for policies and procedures exhibited by Mr. Stewart and his management team has not only impugned the reputation of the NSWMA but has also helped to foster the public perception that the NSWMA is rife with corruption and cronyism.

He recommended that the functions of the executive director be separated from that of the chairman of the board as well as for the NSWMA to develop and enter contracts through a competitive tendering process.

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