JIS News

As the Government seeks to accelerate the Local Government Reform process, a number of responsibilities are to be returned to the Parish Councils as of August 1.
Among these is the calculation of pension benefits for Parish Council officers. State Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with Responsibility for Local Government Reform, Hon. Robert Montague, speaking at a special meeting of the St. Thomas Parish Council in Morant Bay on July 6, said that persons should not have to wait more than six months after retiring to start receiving their pension payments.
“It is a crime when you have a person work with the Parish Council, reach pension age, and three years, four years, five years after they retire, they can’t get their pension,” he stated.
He noted that “the problem comes in now when you work at more than one council, the pension just can’t be calculated. Everybody, who starts to work at the Parish Council, knows from day one when they are going to retire, and there ought not to be a wait longer than six months. You have too many persons…when they retire and until this day, they can’t get their pension.”
There is also a move to return the disposal of Government assets to the Parish Councils, under strict guidelines to allow for the highest level of accountability.
In addition, Councillors and Mayors will be mandated to notify their Councils, before they travel overseas. This is important, Mr. Montague said, as Councillors are key members of the Parish Disaster Committees.
“If there is a disaster that is threatening the parish, you need the membership of that Council to take certain actions. We want to return all of that (responsibility) to the Councils, so that the Councillors ought to inform the Councils that they are out of the island and where they can be reached, because being a Councillor carries a lot of statutory responsibilities,” he expounded.
Meanwhile, he said that Councils will take responsibility for the payment of social water, which is provided at standpipes. “We are paying for pipes that don’t exist, we are paying for pipes that have no water, and then there are some other persons, who are milking the Parish Council, because every standpipe is now a car wash. Therefore, the payment for standpipes are being returned to the Parish Council,” he stated, noting that the move will ensure that the water that is paid for is actually used.
He also took issue with the payment of streetlights, noting that the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPSCo) has been guilty of leaving streetlights unrepaired for extended periods.
“The arrangement we have with the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) is that we pay JPS for 100 per cent of the lights installed, whether they work or not, and we have written to the OUR, that we are coming out of that arrangement. Therefore, when we return the payment of street lights to the Councils, it will form a part of the arrangement through OUR, that the Councils will not pay for lights that are not working (and) will begin to deduct from the JPS bill, for the lights that are not working,” the State Minister told the Councillors.
The meeting was part of a day of activities related to Local Government Reform, to boost ongoing efforts by the Local Government Department to improve communication and dialogue.
The event was hosted by His Worship the Mayor of Morant Bay, Councillor Hanif Brown, and was attended by representatives of several agencies. These included: the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA); Jamaica Fire Brigade; National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA); National Works Agency (NWA); JPSCo; and the National Water Commission (NWC).

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