The situation with the road problem in Birchgrove has once again brought to the forefront the deliberate policy of the New National Party (NNP) over the years to dismantle the Public Works Department of
the Ministry of Works.
Under the NNP, the maintenance of our road network is now more or less in the hands of private concerns.
However, over the years this policy has served to embarrass the country especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when the island needed a government entity to take charge in the massive work that was needed to clean up the country.
The Ministry of Works was paralysed and many of the private owners of heavy duty equipment were waiting on instructions and agreements to get involved in the reconstruction process.
THE NEW TODAY has serious concerns over the manner in which the Ministry of Works is putting contracts into the hands of private concerns to do work on the nation’s road network.
In the case of the collapsed Birchgrove road, the person who is alleged to have gotten the contract is not known to be qualified in the area of the scope of work but is considered in the village as a simple Cabinet maker and woodwork joiner.
It raises questions about whether there was a bidding process and the criteria set up by the Ministry of Works to determine the qualification possessed by those persons who were expected to submit bidding proposals for the required work.
Since the collapse of the road, there have been varying reports as to what might have caused the slippage.
One of those being advanced is the recent heavy rainfall in the area and another is the fact that the existing infrastructure has aged and needed replacing a long time ago.
Some persons are of the view that the heavy duty equipment used on the project has also helped to undermine the road.
It begs the question who issued the contract in light of complaints coming from the CTO in Works about the manner in which that specific work was being done.
The use of this phrase by the CTO might be misplaced. Did he consider the fact that the contract was given in a “vay-ki-vay” manner to the wrong person, a Cabinet maker on the basis of political expediency and the “ah eating a food” mentality that is now so prevalent in the country?
This dispensation of road contracts by the Works ministry might have been done at the risk of loss of lives to the travelling public, and loss of revenue to the Treasury.
THE NEW TODAY notes that in a serious democracy the Minister of Works would have offered his or her resignation to the Prime Minister for the collapsed road.
This newspaper has an additional question – was the Ministry of Works offering any supervision and or guidance at the time of the collapse road to make sure that the work was being properly done and up to standard?
Since then, has the Ministry of Works done an inspection to determine where the blame truly lies?
In addition, who is footing the bills to pay for the additional scope of work that is now needed on the project?
Are the taxpayers footing the bill or those who were given the contract?
Is the Ministry of Works fully equipped with the manpower and the number of qualified persons to visit these projects given to private sector concerns on a regular basis to make sure that the country is getting Value for Money?
There is no denying that outsourcing some projects to the private sector can result in more speedy completion than when done by government itself.
However, the Ministry of Works, through the Line Minister and Chief Technical Officer has a responsibility to ensure that the taxpayers of the country are not short-changed in the process.
The 2008-13 National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas campaigned on the promise to restore the Public Works department within the Works ministry as a key component for the operations of government.
However, Engineer Joseph Gilbert who was Minister of Works for most of the period of Congress rule did not fulfill the promise.
Incidentally, Mr. Gilbert is now a card-bearing member of the NNP following his expulsion along with several others from the NDC in a major party shake-up in 2012.
In ending, THE NEW TODAY hoped that Grenadians would have turned out in numbers to vote in Thursday’s referendum on Constitutional Reform since it is those who heeded the call to vote and did so that had the powers in their hands to effect or not make any changes to our Constitution.