Government Backbencher and Member of Parliament (MP) for St. Patrick West, Anthony Boatswain is calling for an increase in the funds allocated to MPs for special projects to be conducted in their individual constituencies.
According to Boatswain, who is now the only back-bencher in the House of Representatives, the “$15, 000.00” allocation is insufficient and cannot finance the scope of works that is required to enhance the lives of constituents.
“For sole sourcing, we have a maximum of $15, 000.00 (and for anything) beyond that ($15,000.00), we have to tender…you cannot even build a good dog house with $15, 000.00,” said Boatswain who cited need for the ceiling for special projects to be increased while making his contribution to the 2020 Budget debate.
The ex-Finance Minister, who sees special projects as a “key instrument of social and economic change” at the constituency level, informed the Lower House that several small contractors have been turning down jobs out of fear that they would be operating at a loss as there is not much that can be done with the meager sum of money.
“$15, 000 for material and labour…and that is why a number of small contractors are refusing to take on a number of small projects because they are losing money”, he said.
“… I am suggesting to the Minister of Works to increase the ceiling for special projects because we are not getting value for money with $15, 000.00 and we are frustrating the local contractors,” he added.
Boatswain went on: “Something ought to be done and I would hope that the Minister for Works would give us an explanation as to why we are still at this $15, 000.00 limit that cannot do much and they (the contractors) are saying again that if you start a project you cannot continue because the regulation is saying that you cannot do two scope (of works) on the same project.
“So, Mr. Speaker we are not going anywhere with that,” the MP declared, noting that “these are the projects that touch the lives of ordinary people.
“When you provide someone with better access to their homes or you assist them to build a retaining wall to protect their homes Mr. Speaker, we are touching the lives and soul of the people,” he said.
Boatswain expressed concern with the implementation rate of these projects especially in the St. Patrick East and West constituencies, which he said have been lagging behind, due to the lack of the right personnel to scope out the projects that have already been identified.
“To date, we have utilised less than 50% of our total allocation for special projects. Why? Because, we do not have a qualified person from the Ministry of Works (sub-office) in Sauteurs, who can handle these projects to prepare the scopes.
“And that is why we are lagging way behind (and) I am hoping Mr. Speaker that for 2020, we will be provided with a full-time engineer or project officer, who will be able to prepare scope of works and assist in the implementation of these projects.
“St. Patrick, Mr. Speaker, (should) not be treated like a step child and we are entitled to the full range of services just like any other constituency.
The Keith Mitchell Government has cut back on the budget for special projects, moving from EC$7.5m in 2019, to $7m in 2020 to support community-based projects.