A frank speaking Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw on Tuesday called for improved systems to allow money due to contractors to be released much more quickly, as she complained that the slow pace of doing so has resulted in projects being delayed.
She also suggested that additional resources be provided to relevant ministries and government departments to manage large-scale projects more efficiently.
Bradshaw, who is also Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources, said the slow disbursement of funds to relevant contractors was one of the major challenges to Government’s ability to execute some projects.
“Sometimes you hear the funds are there but somebody hasn’t done what they’re supposed to, to get it into the hands of the contractor. That person [doesn’t] get held accountable but the government gets it. We need to fix those things because we need to deal with it frontally and we need to understand that our actions have consequences,” she said.
“It is important that if we are relying on people to take up their own money to get projects going, that we gotta make sure that if they’re owed money, whether in the Ministry of Transport and Works or any other ministry that we find the money to pay these people.
“People cannot live on fresh air, they have workers, who are our constituents, that are coming to them and to us when the monies have not been released in order to get paid. We have to do better,” Bradshaw insisted.
She recommended that the current systems be “deconstructed” to allow for the free-flowing of those funds so that contractors can mobilise.
“If they can’t mobilise and if it is because an officer hasn’t sent up the file or information hasn’t been entered in the system, it is a delay to the people of this country in getting the projects off of the ground,” she argued.
“One of the pleas that I would like to make with the Ministry of Finance is to let us look at the systems that currently exist in relation to the release of funds. Now, I know if you don’t have the money you can’t really release it, but . . . there has to be a body of economists, a body of accountants, a body of all the bright minds who understand how to juggle numbers that can sit down and look at the systems that we have, and better be able to release the funds to contractors.”
The Transport and Works Minister was speaking in the House of Assembly during debate on a resolution to approve the borrowing of $256.6 million from the Export-Import Bank of China to finance the Scotland District Road Rehabilitation Project.
“This money that has been given to us for this particular project, we want to make sure that when this is signed and things get going that we don’t have any frustration in terms of any holdup in . . . the unlocking of funds,” she said, insisting that “there must be a better way to be able to address the issue of unlocking the finance when we have signed off on these loans to be able to ensure that we can draw down those funds”.
The other challenge Bradshaw identified was the heavy workload of some government workers who are required to execute and manage massive projects while carrying out their regular duties.
“We have looked, as a government, at the outsourcing, for instance, of capacity in these institutions, because what is happening is that you have the everyday functions of a ministry that have to be done, and you have the same officers doing those functions. But then we come as a very ambitious government, a very forward-thinking government and we want to accomplish all of these big projects where we’ve unlocked all of this financing. And sometimes we start off believing that we could get the same people who already stretched out to the max to execute the projects in a timely manner.
“We’ve started the process of looking at a request for proposals … to be able to see how we can outsource capacity because we need the human resources in many cases to manage projects. You cannot have the same officers managing large-scale projects in government where they are also required to do the smaller projects as well,”
Bradshaw said this is a matter that must be addressed urgently.
“Whether the resources are found within or the resources are found outside, we need to find those resources in order to help us,” she contended. (DP)