Minister with responsibility for Local Government, Robert Montague has stoutly denied allegations that the Department of Local Government has been allocating funds to the island’s parish councils disproportionately as a result of the proposed upcoming by-elections, while welcoming the decision by the OCG to do an islandwide audit all fourteen local authorities.
Record disbursements through the Parochial Revenue Funds (PRF) and Subvention from central government indicate that all councils since financial year 2010-2011 have received funding for drain cleaning, patching and maintenance of parochial roadways. The PRF is the dedicated source of funding for the rehabilitation and maintenance of parochial roads and drain cleaning.
Minister Montague was responding to allegations made by members of the Opposition (PNP) at a press briefing recently, regarding perceptions of disparity particularly to councils that are within the four local divisions up for by-elections.
The four divisions where vacancies exist due to the deaths of sitting councillors are Frankfield in Clarendon, Duncans in Trelawny, Spanish Town in St. Catherine and Norbrook in Kingston & St. Andrew .
In citing a few examples, Minister Montague pointed to divisions in councils and parishes where no imminent elections or political activities are slated to be held. These include the Royal Flats division in Manchester which received $4.5 million to cover an open pit; Port Antonio which received $5million and an additional $5million for the Titchfield Road in the Port Antonio division, as well as the Greater Portmore division where $4million dollars has been allocated for road repairs to Fourth Street, while Adair Drive in Waterford was allocated $4m.
Minister Montague has since extended and invitation and the hand of cooperation to members of the Opposition to be a part of a review committee that assesses the projects that are submitted to the Department of Local Government by the Parish councils for financial allocations, to ensure value, transparency and accountability in the expenditure of taxpayers’ monies.
He regards the allegation as baseless and has called for an apology and retraction from the Leader of the Opposition, particularly in light of the sensitive nature of the reasons behind the by-elections and the undue stress being faced by the bereaved families.
Also in response to media reports of the decision by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) to audit councils, Minister Montague has greeted this announcement with alacrity citing this as a move in the right direction and a vital performance monitoring system that is endorsed and underscored by the principles of good local governance in embracing accountability, transparency and responsiveness to the people of Jamaica through local government reform.