A National Roads Authority tanker truck watered down the site used for the People’s Progressive Movement’s national campaign launch held on Tuesday.
The PPM held the political rally on the empty lot next to the Compass Centre on North Sound Road. The filled lot has no grass or other landscaping, so the watering was presumably done to keep the dust down.
When first contacted, National Roads Authority Managing Director Brian Tomlinson said he knew nothing about the usage of NRA equipment for the purpose of watering the rally spot. However, after investigating the matter, he confirmed an NRA truck had done the watering.
‘Someone at a supervisory level took it upon himself to assist with the preparation of the PPM meeting site,’ he said. ‘He was reprimanded.’
Mr. Tomlinson said he would not stand for a repeat of the incident.
‘If it happens again, someone is going to be fired,’ he said. ‘I’ve given explicit instructions to all of my staff not to get caught up in political campaigning.’
Those instructions were conveyed verbally at a weekly meeting with NRA engineers on 27 March, Mr. Tomlinson said.
Mr. Tomlinson declined to name the supervisor who had ordered the rally site watering, but said the driver – who can be seen waving at a photographer while pictures of the truck were taken – was not at fault.
Minster of Communications, Works and Infrastructure Arden McLean also said he knew nothing about the incident.
‘I am surprised,’ he said when contacted Wednesday morning. ‘This is the first I’ve heard of it.’
Mr. McLean said he did not request the watering.
‘If I had asked for it, I would tell you. I never try to get anyone in government involved in [political campaigning].’
Later on Wednesday, Mr. Tomlinson said he had found out from the supervisor what had happened regarding the NRA water truck.
‘We have a standing gentleman’s agreement with Island Paving Ltd. that if our water truck breaks down, they help us out with theirs, and vice-versa,’ he said. ‘Monday, an IPL employee called our superintendent and told him that their water truck broke down and asked for assistance. Our superintendent innocently responded as he had many times before and obliged by loaning them the water truck, not knowing it was going to such a high-profile location.’
North Side candidate Ezzard Miller saw the NRA truck watering the rally spot on Monday.
‘It’s a misappropriation of government funds,’ he said, ‘unless the Ministry [of Communications, Works and Infrastructure] or Cabinet had line item to water down the PPM’s meeting site, then I would stand to be corrected.’
Mr. Miller said he also saw plants being delivered to site and surmised they were from the Department of Agriculture.
Department of Agriculture Acting Assistant Director Brian Crichlow said the DoA does indeed operate a plant decoration rental service as part of its outputs. The service is available for both government and private sector functions.
‘Decorations for Government functions are provided as part of the Department’s outputs and the cost for these is covered as part of the Department’s annual budget,’ he said in a written response to questions.
Charges range from $200 to $500 up to 75 plants, depending on the exact number of plants, Mr. Crichlow said.
‘Decorations over 75 plants are costed on a case-by-case basis depending on the number of plants required…’ he said. ‘The decoration charges include the rental of the plants for the function and the delivery and pick-up.’
Mr. Crichlow said the Department of Agriculture regards political parties and individual election candidates as private entities and charges for any decoration services accordingly.
‘The Department of Agriculture did provide a decoration service for the PPM party yesterday,’ he said Wednesday. ‘The charge for the decoration, based on the quantity of plants used, was CI$600.’