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The Editor Speaks: Brac paving disgrace

There has been much in Cayman’s media since a public interest report by the Auditor General on the expenditure of almost $3.5 million on paving in Cayman Brac, including more than $500,000 on private parking lots.

What at first looked suspicious and was the cause for an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee – a committee, though chaired by PPM member, Moses Kirkconnell (who has a special interest in Cayman Brac as he one of their MLA’s) is dominated 3 to 2 by UDP MLA’s, can now only be described as a disgrace.

The members of the Public Accounts Committee are:

Moses Kirkconnell (PPM) — Chairman
Cline Glidden (UDP)
Ellio Solomon (UDP)
Dwayne Seymour (UDP)
Kurt Tibbetts (PPM)

Brian Tomlinson, the former Managing Director of the National Roads Authority (NRA), before he was sacked shortly after he had seized an illegally imported shipment of dynamite and made a report to the police that involved the Premier, Hon. McKeeva Bush, gave evidence to the Committee.

He said that the NRA was directed by project manager and chairman of the NRA, Mr. Colford Scott, to send pieces of equipment over to the Brac that included asphalt paving machines, trucks, rollers, and saws. This left Grand Cayman without any equipment so now the NRA had to change their tendering process to supply and placement instead of just material supply. They were using two suppliers, Island Paving or ARCP.

Tomlinson said there was a lack of quality control on the project and pointed to the $30,000 worth of testing equipment bought and shipped to the Brac, which to this day remains in shipping cases at the dock. He also said the NRA had a very minor role in the paving and had merely been required to supply labour and equipment.

No one has yet satisfactorily answered the question why Colford Scott was appointed as manager of the Brac project when he was also the NRA’s board chairman. As Alastair Swarbrick said in his report that sparked all this, it was “a clear conflict of interest.”

Alan Jones, Chief Officer for the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture, in his testimony to the Committee said “There was no issue of a conflict of interest and Mr. Scott had done an “exemplary job”.

I am sure Mr. Scott did do “an exemplary job”, as I am fully aware of his diligence, expertise and hard work, but that wasn’t the question and if Jones still cannot see the conflict issue, he must be blind.

Tomlinson also made it clear during his tenure the policy at the NRA public cash was used only for public roads. However, he did admit in the past there had been a problem where private road owners failed to keep up the maintenance on roads that were used by the public and the NRA had been drawn into paying for those repairs. Nevertheless, while he was director, the policy was not to use public cash for private roads. There was one exception, he said which was approved by the board following a request from the ministry, to pave a private road in Bodden Town.

Mr. Jones contradicted Tomlinson claiming there was a precedent for paving private roads with public money, it was not an issue as the practice had happened on the Brac.

Despite Dwayne Seymour’s comment on this that he couldn’t believe there was such an outcry about the “beautification of the Brac bestowed upon them”, where roads had not been paved for 25 years, IT COST CI$521,090! Our money and we cannot afford it. And there was no proper authorisation for it! It was just “done”.

Swarbrick pointed to this ridiculous statement saying, private roads being maintained by the government in the past, was still a misuse of public funds. His report did not criticise the paving of the public roads but was concerned with tax-payers money being used for the benefit of commercial enterprises without the ministry seeking any payment or without any criteria or clear justification for spending the people’s money this way.

Jones confirmed that no payments had been requested for paving the parking lots and private driveways. Why?

He said the ministry made decisions on which lots would be paved. People had been invited to apply for the free paving. Some decisions were made on the ground, like when material was left over, the workers would use it on private lots, driveways and roads rather than allowing it to go to waste.

There was also a need to level off the road and the parking lots for environmental and safety concerns, he said. “Environmental and safety concerns”. How public minded of him.

Well, Mr. Jones, I am sure you will keep your job, unlike Mr. Tomlinson.

The whole Brac project has cost the Cayman Islands (as of October 2011) nearly $3.5 million, not including the cost of the $614,547 hot-mix asphalt plant.

Well, Hon. Dep. Premier, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, MLA for Cayman Brac, do you honestly believe all this money was well spent? If it gets you re-elected, I suspect you will.

I think it is a disgrace and I firmly believe I am not alone.



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