Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has questioned the effectiveness of the United Commercial Autoworks Ltd (UCAL), the mechanical contractor of the Transport Board.
Earlier in yesterday’s proceedings, Minister for International Business Donville Inniss described the body as “an experiment gone bad” and said Government needed to consider other options for the maintenance and repair of state-run buses.
Speaking during debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure last night, Sinckler said while UCAL was “a reasonably good idea”, it wasn’t thought out to the end.
“Because what we are calling UCAL today is really just a sophisticated reference to ostensibly what still remains an appendage of the Transport Board.
“I think the mix up in that modelling has landed us in the problem we are in now, and one has to ask the question, if it may not have been less costly to the Government and certainly to the Transport Board to have left them where they were originally in the first place,” Sinckler said.
However, Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland said there was a need to restructure UCAL, not disband it, pointing out that 120 families would be affected if a decision was taken to shut down the entity.
“We are at a stage where we have a small business that was birthed out of the Transport Board, persons with skill, but who don’t have the wherewithal to buy spare parts to execute their jobs. The contract with UCAL is a labour only contract . . . so we can’t expect other private entities that are conducting maintenance work and supplying spare parts with respect to repairs and maintenance on buses, we cannot expect UCAL to compete with these entities.”
Sutherland told the House there has to be a more effective and efficient way of running that department.
“I’m not saying UCAL should not carry any of the blame because at the end of the day UCAL is still a business and it has to be run like a business. So I am not putting everything solely on the Ministry of Transport and Works.”
MP for St Michael East Trevor Prescod also called on Government to find a solution to the problem.
“UCAL is holding the view that it has nothing to do and we hear arguments about the incapability or the lack of the required skills by UCAL to do the work. I don’t know if that is true, I never heard about these things before because from my recollection the last few years, both governments were very supportive of UCAL. We don’t have any new buses that require any special technology.
“What UCAL is contending is that efforts to access spare parts from Simpson Motors, that they’re getting a challenge when they get there on the receiving of the spare parts.
“If that’s the issue, let us try to address it and see how we can resolve that,” Prescod said.