There should be a road engineering competency team to function much like the office of the Inspector General in Jamaica

Dear Editor,
SN, February 2, 2012  Eroded Timehri road repaired

SN, February 8, 2012 Linden roads crumble despite million-dollar repairs

KN, February 8, 2012 Dilapidated 63 Beach Entrance Road and embarrassment

KN, February 10, 2012 Lengthy delay of work on breached Pomeroon dam creates havoc for residents

KN, February 10, 2012    Good Hope road returns to disrepair two months after rehabilitation

KN, February 15, 2012    This Lil’ Red Village road in Region Two is evidence of more shoddy work

The above headlines seem to speak more to the ‘contraction’ than the ‘construction’ of our country’s roads. They represent a minuscule proportion of an extending record of citizens’ complaints of what is intended to be our national road engineering standards. Which raises questions of our truly certified road engineering capacity vis-à-vis the high level of tolerance for mediocre performances, to say the least.

On February 15, 2012 alone KN published “bids to upgrade infrastructure in coastal areas” from at least twenty contracting companies (presumably all statutorily registered). Of course there must be many more.

Despite the persistent commentaries about the suspect procurement process, one does not readily recall the formal institution of any mechanism for checking and evaluating the quality of works in progress and/or completed; nor the extent of compliance with specifications therefor.

So far as is understood the Audit Office has an understaffed unit that (theoretically) should function in such a role, but its extant limited capacity means only that the mandate is honoured significantly in the breach.

This invisible activity contrasts substantively, for example, with the pre-eminence of the office of the Inspector General long established in Jamaica, with almost unquestioned authority to investigate and deal with projects and contractors as deemed appropriate.

The protests so often reported from disaffected communities of ratepayers and taxpayers not only appear to go unheeded, but also the miscreant contractors are seldom known to be penalised in appropriate relation to the evidence of their delinquencies. Interestingly therefore new-coming contractors feel encouraged to board the ‘gravy’ (if not the ‘muddy’) roads train.

Commonsense would suggest that the track records built(?) up by the respective contractors over several long years and expensive projects would be developed by a team of relevant competencies, technically evaluated, with a view to shortlisting the more dependable performers, and of course discarding the pretenders.

This road engineering competency team should also be required to categorise the capacity of those shortlisted to undertake different types and sizes of projects.

It is clearly no longer acceptable to citizens that the accustomed wastage of material and financial resources should continue in theirs or anybody else’s neighbourhoods. It behoves all stakeholders to insist that transparency and accountability be translated from mere words into a credible reality.
Yours faithfully,
E B John

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