Melrose Farms out of JA waste

The National Solid Waste Management Authority has parted company with Melrose Farms, owned by Denzil McDonald, a People’s National Party supporter whose company netted $84 million in contracts over a two-year period with the agency.

“… Upon finding out that Melrose Farms was not registered with the National Contracts Commission, I instructed the operations director to cut all relationships with Melrose Farms. All contractors must be certified,” Errol Greene, the NSWMA’s recently-appointed executive director, told The Gleaner yesterday.

In a recent report to Parliament, Contractor-General Derrick McKoy was very critical of the arrangement between Mr. McDonald and the NSWMA, describing it as conflicting and one which requires “further review and investigation.” The report, tabled last week in Parliament, revealed that $2 billion of public resources were spent loosely by the Authority and painted a picture of mismanagement and cronyism.

Employee fired

In addition to the termination of the services of Melrose Farms, another employee of the beleaguered agency, Mellissa McHargh, confirmed yesterday that her services with the Authority were severed.

“I have not resigned. My services were terminated and I have not been given the reasons for my termination,” explained Miss McHargh, the Authority’s former director of Corporate Services, Planning and Research. She is the fifth employee to leave the agency in recent weeks. Four other persons have resigned.

The Contractor-General’s report said Ms. McHargh was responsible for signing off on payments to Melrose Farms for use of equipment although the company did not submit time sheets to substantiate claims. She declined yesterday to comment on whether her departure was linked to this, and directed other queries to the Local Government Ministry’s permanent secretary, Loraine Robinson. But up to press time, Ms. Robinson had not responded to questions posed.

According to the report, 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.

The Contractor General said checks made with several organisations that are familiar with the operation of equipment of this nature revealed that it would be near impossible to operate these machines in this manner as the maintenance regime required would not accommodate it. For the period February 19 to August 18, 2004, Melrose Farms submitted claims totalling $3.3 million per fortnight.

A probe by the Auditor and Contractor General’s departments was ordered by Local Government Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, after allegations of impropriety at the NSWMA surfaced in March. The Alston Stewart-led board subsequently resigned en bloc.

Since then, the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport has summoned the Solicitor General to comb through current contracts to ascertain if they can be legally severed. The NSWMA also said it has established a procurement committee to monitor its contractual arrangements.