Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry, says the National Solid Waste Management Authority, NSWMA, under the leadership of its former Managing Director, Jennifer Edwards, operated with impunity and failed to fulfill its legal obligations to the Jamaican public.
A damning investigative report by the Public Defender’s Office into the March 2015 fire at the Riverton City dump, has found that Miss Edwards defied specific instructions of the Authority’s board.
The report has also found that the NSWMA under Miss Edwards’ leadership had a “loose” financial management system.
Jennifer Edwards was Managing Director of the NSWMA from February 2012 until the end of a brief extension to her three-year contract in March 2015.
Although the decision not to renew her contract came followed the massive fire at the Riverton City dump of last year, the board of the NSWMA said at the time that was not necessarily the reason for the decision.
It cited several other issues with Edwards’ management of the Authority, and a damning audit which showed nearly 1-billion dollars which could not be accounted for.
Now, more revelations about Ms. Edwards’ tenure at the helm of the NSWMA.
According to the Public Defender’s report the Authority’s poor financial state, is partly attributable to the continued employment of the then Director of Finance, Michael Walters, whose contract the board had specifically directed Edwards not to renew.
Then-Chairman of the NSWMA, Steve Ashley, told the Public Defender that Edwards went behind his board’s back and renewed Walters’ contract despite the directive not to renew.
Ashley says the very “loose” financial arrangements and “criss-crossing of financial transactions” among the six entities under the NSWMA, were the direct result of Edwards’ and Walters’ association.
Ashley says the board was given “ridiculous” and “convoluted explanations” about the state of the agency’s financial affairs.
Although the six entities were supposed to operate fairly independently, there was a common directorship for all the entities, and one company would spend money for the other company.
According to the report, the Ministry of Finance provided funding in 2012/13 for Riverton to be divided into cells, where dumping would be rotated.
The cells would make it less likely for fires to spread, and easier for trucks to access different areas of the site.
Roads were established within the dump, and as a result, there was no major fire in 2013.
NEPA’s CEO Peter Knight says the use of the cells was a condition of the environmental permit, as a safeguard of public health and the environment.
But Ashley says when he visited the dump even before the March 2015 fire, it was very obvious the cells had not been maintained.
This prompted him to write a letter to Edwards, who responded that there was no money to maintain the cells.
This is among the several reasons the Public Defender has concluded that the NSWMA has operated with impunity, and failed to fulfill its legal duties to Jamaicans.
Several phone calls by Nationwide News to Ms. Edwards today went unanswered.