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KINGSTON — Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Works Agency (NWA), Patrick Wong, has apologised for the confusion over the institutional strengthening component of the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP), under which the NWA’s corporate offices was refurbished.

Mr. Wong, who said he also made an apology to the Auditor General, Pamela Monroe Ellis, was responding to one of several finding of the AG’s Special Audit Report on JDIP, which questioned the method used in awarding the contract.

"The refurbishing of the corporate offices was not from our fees. In the contract itself, of the US$400 million, US$2.5 million was set aside for institutional strengthening. It covers refurbishing of the corporate offices, (procurement of) computers, training and technology transfer for the people involved in the project, not just for NWA but for the Road Maintenance Fund (RMF) and the Ministry," Mr. Wong explained.

The CEO was speaking at a press conference at the Ministry in Kingston on Thursday (November 17), to respond to the findings of the AG’s report. He explained that work orders were approved for the refurbishing in September 2010, and started in October 2010, under the institutional strengthening component of the loan.

"So it is not that we are taking money away from the loan, this two and a half million dollars was always earmarked for institutional strengthening. So, the amount available for road construction was US$397.5 million," he pointed out.

Mr. Wong said the refurbishing was required as the NWA had to make provisions to hire 58 additional staff, in addition to repairs to sanitary facilities and the roof.

"The entire roof of the building was leaking, so computers, files and everything were in jeopardy any time it rained. Our lab should have been refurbished under a European Union grant; it wasn’t. We had to upgrade the lab facilities to accommodate such a large programme,” he insisted.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Alwin Hales, noted that in the management of the projects, the Ministry is vigilant and communicates with the NWA on an ongoing basis.

“Where we feel that the NWA is not acting professionally, when it comes to planning and design, we have no hesitation in pointing them out,” he said.

He noted however that, in the configuration of the project, the CEO felt very strongly that the NWA should strengthen itself to be in a state of readiness “to implement a project of this magnitude."

The audit, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 15), was undertaken by the Auditor General’s Department into the management of JDIP, to determine whether the Ministry of Transport and Works and the National Works Agency (NWA) employed appropriate systems to facilitate efficient and effective management of the programme. There were 12 key findings in the report.

The JDIP, being implemented by the NWA,represents a major undertaking by the Government to significantly improve the island’s road network, to enhance the quality of life of citizens and stimulate economic development.

The Government of China has provided funding, through the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China. This partnership has made available US$400 million (approximately J$36 billion) for a programme of works on roads and road furniture, such as bridges, drains and traffic systems, islandwide. The programme is being undertaken on all roads, main and parochial.

 

By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter