The agreement between the Transport Board and its mechanical contractor United Commercial Autoworks Limited (UCAL) was today described by Government minister Donville Inniss as an “experiment gone bad”.
Inniss, who is the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, also insisted that the time had come for Government to seriously consider other options for having the Transport Board’s buses repaired and maintained.
Speaking in the House of Assembly during debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, Inniss argued that UCAL was an albatross hanging from the State’s neck.
“I am deeply concerned that UCAL is an experiment gone bad. As a matter of fact, I submit that it was a bad mistake from day one,” he said.
The outspoken minister said UCAL’s stakeholders had been “fooled into believing that they had some great stake in the ownership of some great entity that would transform public transportation and would make the Transport Board far more efficient, and that also would go out there and compete like a private enterprise.”
However, Inniss said UCAL continued to drain Government of millions of dollars annually.
Referring to it as a “dismal failure”, he said Government needed to look at whether it could continue to support UCAL.
“So effectively what we’ve had is the mechanical workshop of the Transport Board being spun off, but still being totally financed; salaries, wages, spare parts, vacation leave, sick leave and even board of director fees, all still being paid by the taxpayers of Barbados,” Inniss lamented.
“It has been a dismal failure and I say this because when I hear people talk about Transport Board and owing money to UCAL and pay more money to UCAL, understand this, UCAL has not worked,” Inniss said.
“What I know from the documents that I have seen come before me as a minister, is that I am not impressed with it at all, and the State will have to determine whether it is an entity that can continue as it is currently structured and financed, or is there a way for it to be made more independent. “Or are we going to simply accept that we will have to find millions of dollars every year to keep that entity going, whilst at the same time looking to get the buses fixed by others who may certainly have greater skills . . .” Inniss added.