By Carl Joseph
“Where there is collusion, fire them,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said this past weekend as he spoke of possible ongoing fraud at the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).
Prime Minister Browne’s recent call for an investigation into Opposition Leader, Jamale Pringle’s contractual arrangements with the solid waste department, has now prompted a wider investigation into the operations at NSWMA.
“There is something wrong,” said Browne, “and we have to have an investigation.”
While the prime minster went on to praise Minister Molwyn Joseph for what he described as his stellar “contributions” in the Ministry of Health, he said however, “in that particular division in his ministry [NSWMA], I am not satisfied that we’re getting good value for money.”
“I’ve said to him,” Browne said of Joseph, “whomever he has to move where there is proven collusion, fire them. Where there is evidence… and I don’t like to fire people. But, when you [steal] government money, that’s a different ballgame.”
Browne has additionally made recommendations for staff rotations within the department.
“We’ve noticed that the individuals at solid waste that perhaps they have not been paying attention,” Browne stated.
The prime minister asserts that several invoices have been made out to the department with no change in the description of the work done from one invoice to another or from one month to another.
As such, Browne has charged Minister Joseph with the task of auditing the department’s procedures. Possible collusion, alleged contract “kickbacks” and even negligence will be at the forefront of the pending investigation.
“I think there has to be some rotation as well, because when you have people in the same position verifying these contracts, and not paying attention, or looking in another direction and allowing these abuses to take place, we have to take action against them,” Browne offered.
The prime minister asserted that there are approximately 100 trucks on the department’s payroll, but yet, “the country isn’t any cleaner than when we had individuals going around cleaning the country.”
“The actual description of the work that was done remains the same, and we know that that amount of work would not have been available… We have strong reason to believe that those invoices were inaccurate, that they were padded, and we’re gonna deal with that issue,” the prime minster said.
The current allotment of a six-day work-week for the privately-contracted trucks is also going to come under review, according to Browne.
“I’ve spoken to the minister [Joseph] on that issue to ensure that there are redeployments… redeployments of staff and redeployments of those trucks,” Browne offered.
“Maybe too, the time has come to cut down the six days and give them three days and rotate them to get better value for money,” said Browne.