Fri | Apr 12, 2024

Local gov’t minister, executive director laud outgoing NSWMA board

Published:Saturday | February 24, 2024 | 12:10 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Audley Gordon, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
Audley Gordon, executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie.
Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie.
Dennis Chung, outgoing chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
Dennis Chung, outgoing chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
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Despite a severe islandwide garbage collection crisis between 2022 and 2023 causing a black eye, the outgoing board members of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) were on Friday lauded for bringing a culture of accountability to the state entity during their nine-year stint.

There were several toasts on Friday as several of the now-former directors, whose term ended on January 28, 2024, met with Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie and NSWMA Executive Director Audley Gordon.

Gordon said no credit can be too much for the outgoing board.

“The truth is the NSWMA is on a very good path. We are not there yet, but we are significantly far along that path, and it would be good if the authors remained to become the finishers also. However, that could not happen, and by law, we have to part company with two of our most distinguished members to the NSWMA family,” Gordon said.

He said that the best board was assembled to guide and be a steady hand of oversight as he led the organisation.

For Gordon, the public waste management entity was schooled, led, and carefully managed into a culture of accountability, which is now firmly embedded.

“It has now become our duty, who remain at the NSWMA, to guard this legacy… . What a shame it would be if the NSWMA regressed! All your efforts would have come to naught. We can’t allow that to happen,” Gordon said.

Outgoing Chairman Dennis Chung noted that the board was appointed in 2015 following a fire at the Riverton City dump and described yesterday’s occasion as bittersweet.

“Nine years is actually a long time … and it has been a good journey, I think. We were put in place because of a major catastrophe to the fire at Riverton and we were looked at as an entity that would control it from a governance point of view, and we never had another major fire,” Chung said.

He said the audited financial statements that were nine years behind were brought up to date, and the entity has won several corporate governance awards – “a major achievement for an entity that was seen as probably the most corrupt entity in the country”.

LAUDED FOR EFFORTS

He, too, lauded Gordon for shifting the culture of the organisation.

“That, for me, is very important because we were at a point where no one wanted to be a part or associated with NSWMA and now we have people who are constantly calling, wanting to work with the NSWMA and a lot of corporate companies are even hiring people from within the NSWMA,” Chung said.

The outgoing chairman said there has been no corruption or scandals under the board since 2015, recalling that the entity acquired 99 trucks since the board took office with an additional 50 units expected in May.

Over the years, however, several periodic garbage collection issues caused anxiety and concern for citizens in various sections of the island. The situation reached a critical crisis peak between 2022 and 2023 as garbage went uncollected in several communities for several months with lingering fears of a major public health crisis.

In his address, McKenzie said those who are critical of NSWMA today – some for good reasons and others out of ignorance – need to retrace the history of the organisation and find out why [before this board was appointed], solid waste management deteriorated to the extent that the boards of the organisation never lasted long.

“You would have boards, and all of a sudden, two, three people resign from the board. Various things became evident throughout the organisation with how the organisation was operating. The question was asked therefore was it done deliberately because the change that was required to make the entity work legislatively was not attended to until long after it got bad,” he said.

ORGANISATIONAL TURNAROUND

McKenzie said it took a miracle to turn around the NSWMA, which was a major feeding tree for politically aligned persons.

The minister said he was mindful to push for an amendment to the National Solid Waste Management Act to extend the tenure of the outgoing board, making it 15 years, instead of nine, as there was never a negative connotation of the members during their tenure.

“Let’s be fair, if you have something that is working, getting results, isn’t it better to use what you have and [you are] getting results than to go and experiment with something else that would want to come and bring their way of thinking?” McKenzie said..

“That period from 2015 until today will go down as a watershed moment in public cleansing in Jamaica that was when you came you saw and you conquered,” he added.

Camille Facey, outgoing chairperson of the Corporate Governance Committee and member of the Technical & Operations Committee, said professionalising the NSWMA and the implementation of an internal sexual harassment policy were two highpoints.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com