Statutory Bodies in financial debacle

Minister of Communications, Works and Public Utilities Gregory Bowen has re-iterated that a number of Statutory Bodies on the island are experiencing severe financial problems.

During his contribution to the 2016 budget debate last week Tuesday, Minister Bowen painted a sorry state of the financial debacle facing most of the state-run institutions.
He said the Grenada Postal Corporation (GPC) has an outstanding debt of $13.6M, and made a loss of $5.1M over the last five years.

He told the Lower House of Parliament that the Post Office owes the Customs Department one million dollars for money collected on its behalf for mail and other packages that come into the country and attract payment of duties.

According to the senior government minister, former Comptroller of Inland Revenue, Dr. Raphael Stevens who was sent to take charge of GPC operations, is assisting “to ensure that we get out of this doldrums.”

Minister Bowen informed Parliament that government is looking for a private/public partnership (PPP) arrangement “with any person” to take over postal services in the country.
He said that such an arrangement could have already been put in place with DHL shipping company, but claimed that Directors on GPC governing board directed the company to look elsewhere.

“Instead of taking on their judicial responsibility and helping the Postal Corporation, they moved food out of its mouth,” he told Parliament.

A large section of the work force at GPC is due to be retrenched at month-end and Minister Bowen expressed the hope that they will all be paid off and a new entity will soon commence operations.

Another Statutory Body that is under government’s radar is Gravel and Concrete.
Minister Bowen said government is currently in negotiation with an unnamed bidder to take control of the operations at Gravel and Concrete for a period of 20 years with the hope of having it returned thereafter to the State.

THE NEW TODAY understands that some members of the Board of Directors and Management at Gravel & Concrete are raising questions about this decision of Minister Bowen.

The Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC) which is an arm of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had advised the ruling New National Party (NNP) Government to relook State support for most Statutory Bodies as they are deemed to be liabilities to government’s resources.

With regards to the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), the Public Utilities Minister said when the new administration got into Office two years ago there was a government debt of $12.5M, but the sum now owed is $2.5M.

However, according to Minister Bowen, while NAWASA can accommodate its loans for capital development, it owes its workers $58M as retirement payment.

The senior Government Minister also gave an update on public transportation in the country and reported that 226 route stickers for buses were issued during the year

The Eastern Main Road had the lion’s share of 36 stickers, while 26 of the stickers went to Zone One which is the route between the Town of St. George and Grand Anse, 11 went to Zone Six route which covers St. George’s to Grenville, and St. George’s to Sauteurs in St. Patrick’s, Zone Five route received ten.

Minister Bowen said due to the absence of a bus association, his ministry is finding it difficult to speak with the operators of public transport.

However, he said plans are in the making to have the ministry assist with the formation of an association so that dialogue can take place.

The Works Minister also provided the House with the current status of work to be undertaken on a number of government buildings.

Without giving much details, he said funds have been earmarked for the construction of a new police headquarters.

“We have earmarked the funds but we need agreement from the donors so that we can move with this project… just give us a while and we could commence that project by the first quarter of 2016,” he said.

Minister Bowen spoke of the possibility that through the three hundred million Pound Sterling in grant that has been pledged to Caribbean Countries by Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, the refurbishment of the Governor General building will commence next year.

He also reported that government is far advanced for work to start on the Houses of Parliament, stating that by the end of the month Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Patricia Clarke should sign the contract with the selected Bidder.

The official residence of the Governor General was destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

The Tillman Thomas-led Congress Government had secured US$5M for the project from the Government of Australia, but that was withdrawn in 2014, shortly after the Keith Mitchell Administration won the 2013 general election.

Funds were also secured for the project from the United Arab Emirates by the former Congress Administration.

Minister Bowen said that unlike the Grenville Market which was able to accommodate all of the vendors, the situation is not the same in St. George’s.

He said at the St. George’s Market, there are only 12 booths but one hundred applicants to occupy them.

The Works Minister cited the need for more booths to be constructed at the St. George’s Market to accommodate all of the vendors, adding that $1.5M has been budgeted to have more work done.

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