The Cayman Islands government is spending nearly $35,000 per month to rent equipment for its landfill to replace broken down, poorly maintained machines, the Legislative Assembly’s finance committee heard this week.
“The equipment that we have at the landfill has been out of service for a period of time and to compensate for that, we rent equipment from the private sector to assist us in our operations,” Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter told East End MLA Arden McLean during the committee hearings. Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said that, in some cases, equipment had been out of service for up to three years.
Mr. McLean had asked how much the Department of Environmental Health was spending on rental equipment.
“Prior to the fire at the landfill in February, it was typically a rental expense of $8,300 per month,” Mr. Carter said. “Following the fire, it is in region of $35,000 per month – the reason is I have no equipment available.”
Massive fires broke out at the landfill on Dec. 20, 2013 and Feb. 16, 2014. At the time of the February fire, five pieces of heavy equipment normally used to fight fires or mitigate the occurrence of fires were out of order and an engine from one of the excavators had been sent to Brazil for repairs.
During the latest fire that occurred at the landfill’s southern end, crews found it difficult going because of the missing equipment. The missing equipment included: two bulldozers, a trash compactor, and two excavators, Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said at the time.
The rental costs could hike up the rental fees to about $500,000 per year, if the department was required to keep renting it.
“That is a half million dollars per year we’re paying in rentals,” Mr. McLean said.
Minister Bodden admitted it was not an ideal situation.
“We have a lot of stuff that we didn’t have in operation that we had to rent,” Mr. Bodden said. “We are trying now to buy the equipment to replace them.”
Minister Bodden said the type of equipment leased at landfill includes a D6 bulldozer and an excavator [330 or 370 model] and a dump truck. Those rentals are just to meet the “minimum” operating needs. Mr. Bodden also said that equipment needs can change monthly based on operational circumstances, which can cause rental costs to fluctuate.
The average hourly rental rates are $125 per hour for the bulldozer, $135 per hour for the excavator, and $55 per hour on the dump truck.
Minister Bodden said rental equipment would be used as needed in the upcoming budget year until the government replaces the broken down vehicles.
Mr. Bodden said the reason for the landfill’s lack of equipment was due to improper or absent maintenance.
“There is no reason or good excuse to give other than the equipment has been broken and we’ve had major issues with the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services in repairing that,” the minister said.
Ongoing problems with the repair and replacement of government vehicles have been well documented by government auditors.
The Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services outsourced vehicle repair jobs between July 2011 and November 2012 on a number of government vehicles at a cost of $1.725 million during the period, the audit revealed.
As an example, the Department of Environmental Health stated at the time of the audit that 18 of its 27 garbage trucks were more than 10 years old. In addition, 25 of the 27 trucks maintained at the time required “life cycle refurbishment.” Those works were expected to cost a total of $1.5 million, or $60,000 per vehicle, according to an evaluation done in June 2013 by the government’s Internal Audit Unit.
According to auditors, the average cost of a new garbage truck with a 25-year life span is $225,000.
“My sympathies to the minister. Déjà vu,” said Mr. McLean, who was the works minister in charge of the landfill between 2005 and 2009. “It’s not different from when I was there. It was a lack of attention paid to the scheduled maintenance of the equipment, i.e., they wouldn’t take it in to be done.”
Mr. McLean asked what would be done to hold people accountable for the maintenance failures.
“People will be held accountable starting from management down,” Mr. Bodden said. “It’s unacceptable. We have now hired or are in process of hiring a fleet manager who has good knowledge of equipment. The bulk of the problem … has stemmed from the equipment being broken and the landfill was in abeyance because of the uncertainty of the waste management plan going forward.”