Reports that the state-run Transport Board has not paid United Commercial Autoworks Limited (UCAL) for the year are totally untrue, says Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley.
In fact, during debate in the House of Assembly this morning on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, Lashley revealed the Transport Board had paid UCAL – which is contracted to repair and maintain its vehicles – several times.
“I want to report that UCAL was paid this year by the Transport Board on about five or six different occasions.
“The Ministry of Finance is also in charge of UCAL, in terms of their salaries, and the fact is that within the compound at UCAL, there are now some 37 to 40 buses in at UCAL,” Lashley reported.
In response to concerns raised about the employment of Trinidadian engineers, to repair buses at the Transport Board’s Mangrove, St Philip depot, the minister said this was nothing new, pointing out that a similar thing was done by the former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration back in 1998.
“In 1998, the board chaired by Jerome Walcott, and along with the general manager and the operations manager travelled to Trinidad to examine the bus operations of that country,” he revealed.
“And then on July 28, 1998, the general manager then informed the members of the Transport Board that members of the PTSC [Public Transport Service Corporation] of Trinidad would be visiting the Board to look at the buses that were recently purchased, but which were giving problems.
“So to come in here with a false fury and then come to suggest that the Minister of Transport is bringing in Trinidadians . . .the facts remain and the evidence is there,” Lashley added.
His was responding to allegations made by Opposition St Michael East MP Trevor Prescod. Earlier this week, one local newspaper also warned of a looming dispute between UCAL and the Transport Board.
However, while admitting that the Transport Board was operating under challenging conditions, Lashley praised the state-run organization for its efforts, given limited resources.
“The truth is that the Transport Board over time has been grappling with expenditure issues and seeking to maintain a reliable service throughout this country . . . We now have to look at how we will seek to bring a satisfactory service [and] a reliable service to the travelling public of Barbados,” Lashley explained. (RB)