Jamaican PM orders policy on contract management

Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness has ordered the country’s new procurement authority to draw up a policy incorporating performance management into contracting.

Holness said the introduction of an “accountability mechanism” would improve how contractors work.

“We know of several contractors who have work they don’t finish; they don’t complete it on time, but yet they come back into the process. So there must be a way within the procurement process in which the past performances of contractors feature in the ability to get future work,” he said.

Holness was speaking at the signing of the $195m contract for the South Coast Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) at Jamaica House.

He challenged local contractors during the event, which marked the launch of a 16km four-lane highway to be built by China Harbour Engineering (CHEC) along the south coast connecting Negril and Port Antonio via a modern highway system.

“There is a view that contracting in Jamaica is just very chaotic [and] that contractors are not accountable,” he said.

“Motorists [and] commuters, especially those who have to use those thoroughfares that are under construction, complain bitterly about the work ethic and discipline of the contractors and supervision of the National Works Agency (NWA). It has not gone on deaf ears; I’m paying very close attention to it.”

Holness said creating an institutional framework to introduce performance management into contracts would change the culture of local contractors.

However he hit back at complaints that big construction companies were getting the lion’s share of the work.

He said that while contractors complain that big construction companies, like CHEC, “are getting all the work”, such complaints were not merited.

Holness queried whether local contractors are “making the investments in our own construction companies for the management [and] level of engineering that is needed”.

He asked whether Jamaican contractors were “holding the managers in your companies to account, sticking to deadlines, and respecting the right of the public to enjoy the thoroughfare even if it is under construction”.

Holness said the NWA would be the first agency ordered to change the country’s contract culture.

“The NWA has to step up its game. The old way in which we did business cannot carry the level of work that is going to take place in the months coming” he said.

“Eventually, we want to see contractors who can stand toe-to-toe with China Harbour and bid for large contracts, not just in Jamaica but anywhere,” he added.

In March the minister of finance and public service Nigel Clarke said a “new public procurement regime” would take effect in this financial year, including more opportunities for SMEs and Jamaican suppliers.

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