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Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry, has refuted claims made by head of the National Transport Co-operative Society (NTCS), Ezroy Millwood, that the government’s decision to formally wind up the NTCS’s operations, within nine months, was reached without dialogue.
To the contrary, the minister said that there have been at least six meetings with the NTCS on the issue since January 2009, and even more meetings last year, since the question of the NTCS’s conformity to the regulations became a contentious issue.
“The 2009 meetings were held on January 20, January 22, March 16, and three times since then,” the Minister said.
He added that the meetings involved the NTCS, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), the Transport Authority (TA), and representatives of the Attorney General’s (AG) Department on some occasions.
“In some of these meetings, Mr. Millwood was at his vocal best, yet now he has the gall to be saying that there was no dialogue with the NTCS. It is the very fact that dialogue for so long was getting us nowhere, that has brought things to the present position,” Mr. Henry said.
He commented that it appeared, from the whole exercise, that the NTCS expected to be allowed to operate outside the law, in terms of meeting its financial obligations, even after its operating licence expired and the society had been allowed to operate for more than a year on ministerial discretion.
He also noted that the NTCS was given more than ample opportunity to demonstrate its intention to operate within the ambit of the law, and having failed to do so, “there comes a time when the line of authority has to be drawn”.
Mr. Henry said that the NTCS had failed, for an extended period, to produce financial statements, to back its claim that it was not earning what the authorities had estimated the society to be earning. This formed the basis for the sub-franchise fees which were applied to the society’s operating licence.
He said in addition to not co-operating with the authorities, the NTCS had also not been keeping up with the payment of the applicable fees, with some $12 million being outstanding for last year, and millions more for this year, so far.
At the same time, Mr. Henry said, elements among the society’s fleet of operators were racking up a reputation for gross lawlessness and disorder on the roads, something which even the management of the NTCS had acknowledged, but demonstrated no serious intention to curb.
The Minister said the matter became so contentions, at times, that it was eventually referred to the Cabinet, inclusive of the NTCS’ perspective and signed positions of agreement among the various stakeholders, for a decision to be taken.
The result was a directive for the winding up of the NTCS’s operations within nine months, during which period the society is expected to pay the outstanding fees.
With the winding up of the NTCS’ operations, the field is to be opened for operators, including NTCS members currently servicing the sub-franchised JUTC routes, to apply in groups or as individuals, to be part of the arrangements to replace the current NTCS operations.
“The NTCS now has some time to bring about a changed approach to doing business,” Mr. Henry said.
“I am sorry that I have had to disappoint Mr. Millwood, but the NTCS will not be allowed to continue to operate outside of the regulations and not have corrective measures taken. The matter has been decided on by Cabinet and that is that,” said the Minister.

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