A messy situation is developing in Government’s garbage collection scheme forged between private waste haulers and the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) back in October last year.
The Freundel Stuart administration is said to be owing the haulers hundreds of thousands of dollars for work done over the past three to four months, leaving some to wonder how long it could continue.
Barbados TODAY investigations revealed that the situation is so dire that some firms are running out of cash, and at least one has had to send home some of its workers.
Five companies – Project Recycle; Williams Liquid and Solid Waste Management; Garbage Master Limited; Simpsons Trucking Skip Services; and Forde’s Freighting and Rental Service Limited – are involved in the programme, hatched last year after it became clear that the SSA, reeling from a lack of adequate resources, had lost the ability to cope with mounting garbage.
The foul smelling evidence was clear as every form of household waste imaginable littered the streets and sidewalks, while overflowing receptacles contributed to growing mountains of garbage, due to an irregular and unreliable garbage collection schedule by the waste collection agency.
Barbados TODAY understands that the companies are owed more than $300,000, some of them for work carried out as far back as March.
When introduced last year the project was to initially run for six months. However, since then the private waste haulers were notified of an indefinite extension.
The waste haulers refused to comment on the matter when contacted by Barbados TODAY this afternoon, but official sources said Government was indebted to all the companies involved in the programme.
The sources said the private waste haulers were willing to continue to help clean up the island but were not sure how long they could hold on.
In fact, one source said the truckers were now facing an uphill battle since cash flow was becoming a concern, and was approaching critical levels for some.
Another source said despite numerous calls to the authorities for information on when payment would be forthcoming there was no reasonable response.
“They can’t continue for much longer and nobody really saying anything. No one is really responding,” said the source, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to address the issue publicly.
However, Anderson Fat Child Cherry, the chief executive officer of Project Recycle, contradicted the official sources, insisting Government did not owe his company.
Cherry told Barbados TODAY he would be scheduling a meeting with the truckers to find out more about the situation and to hear their concerns, including how long the programme would last “so they can deploy their resources accordingly when the programme is coming to a halt.
“I will speak to them to find out about this payment issue. I hope they are not over-extending themselves,” he said.
Cherry said from all accounts, both the waste haulers and Government were satisfied with the work being carried out.
“The programme is running smoothly. Project Recycle is committed to serve and I have spoken to [some of the others] and they too are committed to serve.
“We really think that the programme is running good. We were able to submit some data that the Ministry [of the Environment] can use for their further studies. I think we are doing a wonderful job,” he added.
However, it has not always been smooth sailing, particularly as it related to remuneration for the haulers, who last December were involved in a nasty exchange of letters with Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe and SSA General Manager Roslyn Knight.
At the centre of the controversy was the decision by the SSA to alter the rates from $350 plus Value Added Tax (VAT) per hour for an eight-hour day, to $300 inclusive of VAT.
When contacted today on the latest development, Knight would neither confirm nor deny that the waste haulers were owed, nor would she give a reason, while Lowe was said to be in meetings and could not be reached.