Three months after four technicians from Trinidad and Tobago were retained by the Transport Board to work on its buses’ engines, they are yet to deliver a single unit to service the island’s routes, according to an official source who blamed the situation on a lack of funds to purchase parts for the repairs.
The source also stated that the precarious financial position was also delaying repairs scheduled to be carried out by United Commercial Autoworks Ltd (UCAL) on 25 units, 20 of which were awaiting parts.
The source told Barbados TODAY that so far the Trinidadian technicians, based at Mangrove Depot, had delivered one bus, BM 522, because they had transferred the engine from a burnt vehicle, BM530, to return BM522 to the route.
Dismissing claims by a senior official of the Transport Board that UCAL could not get the work done, the source insisted the delay arose because of the board’s failure to deliver the parts.
The source also complained that the Trinidadians – one electrician, two specialists in engine repair and transmission rebuilding and a consultant – were being paid as much as $1,400 a week and were provided with accommodation at a St Patricks, Christ Church location, while the Barbadian workers there were paid $720 a week.
He further said all of the board’s quality control personnel once stationed at the Mangrove Depot had been transferred to the Weymouth headquarters, giving the Trinidadians full control of the St Philip location.
Arguing that the retention of the technicians had been a failure, the source claimed that every morning drivers assigned to the Mangrove Depot were turning up at the Weymouth headquarters for buses to take on the route because there were not any road-worthy buses at the Mangrove Depot.
The Transport Board has had major challenges in reducing a $22 million debt to UCAL and arrears in the region of $32 million to the National Insurance Scheme.
Commenting on the current situation, Shadow Minister of the Ministry of Transport and Works Trevor Prescod said it appeared to be a ploy by the governing Democratic Labour Party to privatize the Transport Board and place it in the hands of its backers.
“How can a board that has run up a debt of $22 million to UCAL and arrears to the National Insurance Scheme of $32 million retain the services of Trinidad technicians to repair buses that are over ten years old?
“I believe that it is a ploy to show that Government cannot run an operation efficiently therefore it should be handed over to the private sector. No doubt commuters would be asked to pay five dollars for a trip to town and five dollars for a return trip,” Prescod said.
Transport Board General Manager Sandra Forde declined to comment on the charges.