Complaining KSAC owes JPS $761m for street lights

News post August 15, 2016

Audit won’t fix the problem, Tomblin tells council

TOMBLIN… the fact is, JPS simply cannot make repairs on the agreed normal cycle without payment being made for street light service

The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), which last week scolded the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) over non-functioning street lights, owes the light and power company more than $700 million for the service.

In fact, JPS President and CEO Kelly Tomblin pointed out

that the KSAC’s debt is part of the more than $4 billion owed by the Government at the end of July 2016.

“The fact is, JPS simply cannot make repairs on the agreed normal cycle without payment being made for street light service. Arrears for the KSAC reached $761 million at the end of July 2016, and we have received only $194 million in payment since June 2015 (against an average monthly bill of $60 million),” Tomblin said in a letter to the editor in response to a report in last Thursday’sJamaica Observer on complaints about non-functioning street lights voiced at last Tuesday’s KSAC council meeting. The council had passed a resolution urging the local government ministry to withhold payments to JPS for non-working street lights which are not repaired within one month of being reported. The resolution also asked for a night audit of all street lights in the municipality. People’s National Party (PNP) councillor Otis Hamilton (Red Hills Division), who moved the motion, said that Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, in his address to the KSAC council earlier this year, stated that 50 per cent of the streetlights in his Kingston Western constituency were not working. Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor John Myers (Lawrence Tavern Division) told the Observer that more than 200 street lights of an estimated 393 in his division were not working. “Why pay the JPS if we are not getting service? We need to zone the divisions and pay according to the lights that work,” Myers said. PNP Councillor Kari Douglas (Trafalgar Division) complained that the streetlighting situation made councillors “tired, frustrated and hopeless”. But in her response, Tomblin pointed out that JPS had, since the start of this year, repaired more than 12,000 streetlights, and over 3,000 of these are in Kingston and St Andrew.

Below is the full text of Tomblin’s letter.

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to respond to a report in Thursday’s (August 11) edition of the

Daily Observer that the KSAC has passed a resolution to conduct an audit of working street lights across Kingston and St Andrew.

While we welcome another audit of street lights, let us not forget that the 2013 audit was not a “JPS audit” – as stated by one of the KSAC councillors – but a joint effort by the Ministry of Local Government, JPS, the parish councils and the KSAC. A daytime audit was agreed on by all parties, as the specific objective was to count all lamps and establish an accurate baseline of installed street lights across the island – together. The results of that joint audit, which was accepted by all parties, showed that JPS is billing for far fewer street lights than are installed. There was always a plan for a follow-up joint night audit to verify working lights, subject to the ministry and the parish councils identifying funding on their side. We believe, however, that the result of any such audit is very predictable and will confirm what we all already know – some street lights are out of service. What the audit will not reveal is the impact of theft on street lighting, and the fact that JPS is not being paid for street lighting service. We take the issues of safety and security very seriously, and we share the frustration of our customers when streetlights remain out for extended periods. Since the start of this year, JPS has repaired over 12,000 street lights, and more than 3,000 of these lights are in Kingston and St Andrew. The fact is, JPS simply cannot make repairs on the agreed normal cycle without payment being made for streetlight service. Arrears for the KSAC reached $761 million at the end of July 2016, and we have received only $194 million in payment since June 2015 (against an average monthly bill of $60 million). Let me be clear, the KSAC is not the only municipality that owes JPS for street lighting. Up to the end of July, JPS was owed more than $4 billion for street lighting. Paying down the arrears is the only way the KSAC and parish councils, with us, can stop this cycle of street lamps going unrepaired for longer periods than is acceptable. Until JPS gets paid for its street lights, and until we get full support for our efforts to stop theft from street lights, service can never match the expectations of our customers and the objectives of JPS. We continue to have discussions with the Government, the KSAC and parish councils across Jamaica, with a view to arriving at a solution to this problem as soon as possible.

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