Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has effortlessly tried to put to rest claims of misuse of over a billion dollars in Eastern St Thomas.
Chairman of the national board of directors, Nigel Myrie, who replaced Michael Stern has denied the claims of opposition shadow spokesman on agriculture Victor Wright and opposition leader Peter Phillips. Both officials have accused the entity of inaccurate usage of funds allocated to the agency. This has lead the opposition leader to call for a probe in of the Farm Rehabilitation Programme.
The aim of the programme is to rehabilitate farm roads across Jamaica. The designated sum for the project was $470 million dollars; however the spending on the project is thus far on eyebrow raising over $1.6 Billion dollars. This to the concern of the opposition leader hence the additional call for a “…full financial audit of the Rehabilitation of Farm Roads Programne”.
The allocated funds was for the period 2017-2018. The parish of St Thomas, has benefited from a spending of the full $1.6 billion dollars being queried, keen attention being given to the suspicion that all monies were spent on bushing and no other form of infrastructural development, such as bushing, drain enhancement, road patching etc.
The PNP has gone on record stating that investigations have revealed that the rates in the RADA contacts were disproportionate to the rates being paid by the National Works Agency for the same work outlined. The party further suggests that they have evidentiary support that shows RADA two occasions spent Ten million, three hundred and eighty thousand dollars ($10.38m) on one kilometre (1km) of roadway. The NWA’s rate per km is one hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) per kilometre, a variance upwards of six thousand percent (6000%).
CALLS OF THE OPPOSITION
Through it’s leader Dr. Peter Phillips, a number of calls are being put forward by the opposition.
The opposition calls for an audit by the auditor general, which must include to whom monies were paid, who received the funds, for what were the funds used as payment regarding the work and those culpable.
Additional calls were made on MOCA (Major Organized Crime and Anti- Corruption Agency) to investigate “… a massive scheme to steal public funds…” according to Phillips.
The opposition leader also wants Prime Minister and Leader of the Jamaica Labor Party Honourable Andrew Holness, to relieve Ministers J.C. Hutchinson and Audley Shaw whose portfolios give them responsibility of RADA. The opposition also calls for the board of RADA to remove themselves during the process of the investigations.
The embattled chairman and agricultural specialist Nigel Myrie, Has refuted the claims of the opposition and has stopped short of labeling the accusations “madness”. The chairman stated, contrary to what the opposition says the 1.6 million is close to what was spent under the programme by RADA across the entire island.
The Auditor General’s Department led by Pamela Munroe Ellis Tabled a Report in Parliament in late October, 2019. The report points in the direction of lack of transparency and disregard for competitiveness.
Mrs. Monroe Ellis’ Report added more scandalous meat to the RADA Mismanagement bone by outlining that of the 1.6 billion dollars spent, only four (4) of the one hundred (112) road rehabilitation contracts was issues using the local competitive bidding process and amounted to a total of 90.8 million of the projected 1.6 million. RADA also employed the limited tender methodology for 75 contracts valuing 1.4 billion dollars and could not present nor clarify the basis on which contractors were pre-selected for road rehabilitation contract.
The entity falls under the umbrellas of the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Agriculture and is guided by a mission “… to promote Agricultural product as a moral engine of growth in rural communities”.
By Karleyer Edwards – News Reporter