Wed | Feb 24, 2021

RADA squabble - Chairman, CEO at odds over farm road selections

Published:Friday | July 24, 2020 | 12:05 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Peter Thompson, the chief executive officer of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), has defended his management’s technical competence in the selection of farm roads for repairs despite claims from his boss, Chairman Nigel Myrie, that sufficient demographic information had not been supplied to the board.

Discontented members of parliament (MPs) who sit on the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) complained on Wednesday that despite the submission of a list of farm roads, through RADA officials, for repairs, it appears that the board often ignored those recommendations and made its own selections.

The claim stirred an intense debate involving Myrie and the MPs, as well as Thompson, who remained steadfast that his officers had submitted a master list of farm roads with the requisite data so that repairs could be done.

road selection

Thompson explained that his office sends a master with the necessary data relating to the number of farmers who live in the various communities, crops produced, among other things. He said that a list of recommended roads from the municipal corporations is also submitted to the RADA board.

Myrie, who was quizzed about how farm roads were ultimately selected for repairs, gave the committee an explanation.

“It is not done by the board. It is done in collaboration with the management. We sit in the board meeting, and we go through the list parish by parish, and if the road, at the time that it was presented, the demographics are not ready, we cannot proceed with it, so we either look for another road or postpone the particular road,” he said.

But chairman of the PAAC, Dr Wykeham McNeill, indicated that there was a disconnect, noting that many of the roads listed as priority for repairs on RADA’s database that were selected by the agency’s technical officers had not been approved by the board.

However, Myrie insisted that “they may have listed a road for which the demographics were not ready – we couldn’t proceed”.

Responding to Myrie’s claim that the management sometimes sends insufficient data to the board, Thompson said: “I would not send an incomplete list to the board because that would show my incompetence.”

Committee member Fitz Jackson said that he was astonished at the dissonance in the explanations given by Myrie and Thompson.

“The board in every organisation is supported by the executive body in the organisation. Mr Myrie and Mr Thompson are poles apart in terms of the process,” he said.

performance audit

The parish of St Elizabeth, which is considered the country’s breadbasket, had 16 roads on RADA’s master list for repairs.

Franklyn Whitter, the MP for St Elizabeth South East, said that despite consultation with officials from RADA, four roads appeared on the master list for the southeast region but were, in fact, located in the southwest. He complained that this has left him with only one road earmarked for repairs.

Last October, the auditor general’s performance audit report on RADA’s management of the rehabilitation of farm roads was tabled in Parliament.

The key findings revealed that the farm road selection process, under the Farm Road Rehabilitation Programme, was not transparent; RADA could not clearly distinguish between farm and non-farm roads; RADA’s annual budget did not support the maintenance of all farm roads; the agency lacked a robust farm road management system; and inspection and monitoring activities did not assure provision of roadworks consistent with contracts.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com