The Government has signed an $8 million contract with Pricewaterhouse Coopers to conduct operational audits of the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) and the Sugar Industry Research Institute (SIRI).
The contract was signed by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke and Director, Pricewaterhouse Tax and Advisory Services Ltd., Adrian Tait, at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices, in Kingston, on April 18.
Mr. Clarke explained that the recommendation for the audits emerged from the most recent Commission of Enquiry under the Chairmanship of Professor Alwin Wint.
“It has become necessary to re-examine the existing institutions, such as the Sugar Industry Authority, the Sugar Industry Research Institute and the regulation that govern them, to ensure that we have an institutional and regulatory set up that is efficient and cost effective,” he said.
“While we conceive that life is dynamic and we have to adjust to meet new realities, certain principles remain immutable. A cane payment system that provides for transparency, and allows the cane farmer to benefit from a proportion of the value added in the industry, must remain firmly intact to inspire confidence in cane farmers. We cannot ignore the fact that every single Commission of Enquiry into the sugar industry, numbering about six over several years, have independently emphasised the importance of such a transparent system,” he added.
Mr. Clarke said the Government is no longer in the business of growing cane and producing sugar, but it has an enduring obligation to create the requisite regulatory, institutional and legal framework within which the sector can grow, and contribute even greater to the economy and rural development.
He pointed out that the institutional arrangements for the sugar industry have evolved over many years.
“The current arrangements have largely been in place since the Mordecai Commission of 1966, and rest largely on pool marketing of sugar to satisfy our quota obligations to the European Union (EU). Common services, such as research, joint labour negotiations, and the basis for payment to cane farmers were all born out of this Commission. The truth is, our realities are changing, as with the cessation of preferential arrangements and quota obligations to the EU, individual manufacturers have the option to pursue their own marketing arrangements. Common services, such as research, have been funded from cess, as well as the cost for regulating the industry,” he said.
Mr. Clarke said a completely privatised industry is now keener to ensure that these services are provided at minimal cost and with the greatest level of efficiency.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter