Lights out!

More than 10% of street lights across the island still not working

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 19, 2019

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MORE than 10,500 street lights across the island are still not working, despite a major repair and maintenance programme implemented by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) over the past 12 months.

Late last year, JPS announced that it had exceeded its street light repair target of 6,000 for the final quarter of the year, with 3,691 repairs in November.

But on Wednesday, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government Marsha Henry-Martin told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament that despite JPS repairing thousands of street lights, just over 10 per cent of the 105,000 street lights across the island are in need of repair.

“Between October and June, more than 22,000 lights would have been repaired and they (the JPS) have indicated that, on average, 2,000 lights are scheduled to be repaired each month,” said Henry-Martin.

According to the permanent secretary, the ministry recently met with officials of JPS and it was agreed that a joint islandwide audit would be carried out this summer, to ensure that both parties are on the same page as to the lights to be repaired.

But that did not satisfy PAAC Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill, who noted that the Government has paid off its outstanding arrears to JPS and should be demanding that deadlines are set to deal with the recurring problems of street lights not working.

“There is an agreement with the JPS, that, contingent on us making the payments in a timely manner, they would fix those street lights that are not working and a timeline was set,” said McNeill.

Since last March, the Government has paid more than $8.6 billion which was owed to JPS for street lights by the local authorities, and McNeill was adamant that the company now needs to keep its side of the deal.

“I am making the point that we have fulfilled the timeline for payments and what we want now is the service of street lights which we are paying for, because a bill comes every month, whether they are working or not working, and they should be fixed.

“I'm saying that there is a policy decision that you have implemented. What are you, at the ministry level, doing to ensure that the agreement you have in place is being followed on the ground?” McNeill added.

Henry-Martin accepted that the local government ministry should hold JPS to account.

“We will continue to have the kind of consultation that is necessary and to demand from the JPS that it meets the timelines,” said Henry-Martin, as she noted that the company has sought an extension in the deadline to complete the repairs.


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