A handful of plans which form part of the Government’s new budget were not heard in the House of Assembly last week due to strict rules on the length of speeches.
Details on improvements to the Post Office, the introduction of a solar powered water plant and better radio coverage were never broadcast as Minister of Government Support Services George Lightbourne was cut short half way through his address.
Speaker Robert Hall explained to the assembly that each member was allocated just half an hour to speak about the 2014/2015 budget due to time restraints and there could be no exceptions.
However the Weekly News obtained a copy of Lightbourne’s full speech with all of the missing plans highlighted.
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
The upcoming year will see the first solar powered reverse osmosis (RO) plant installed in Salt Cay as well as the new housing for the plant – a project that is well on its way.
Also a prepaid water metering system will be put in place to allow for more accuracy and accountability.
Lightbourne stressed that the department will continue to spearhead the procurement and management of contracts to ensure better value for money.
It will also continue its commitment to sustainability through value engineering and robust preventative maintenance initiatives.
Among its other goals are to ensure all maintenance functions are carried out efficiently and cost effectively in a timely fashion, continue serving and supporting other Government ministries in maintenance matters of Government buildings and infrastructure, and strive to complete any improvement of roadways to give the public a better quality ride on the roads.
The minister went on to explain that the department will “carry out any improvement of drainage to a number of areas within the Turks and Caicos Islands, carry out levelling and grading of roads under the recurrent vote, ensure the maintenance of seawalls as required.”
Finally it will execute planning, designing, estimating and project management of projects in the capital budget and deliver safe, reliable, adequate and quality water service for the improved public health and sustainable economic development.
CENTRAL PURCHASING UNIT
In the upcoming year the Central Purchasing Unit (CPU) will continue its implementation of a Supply Projection Policy.
“This would eliminate the ad hoc procurement approach for office supplies and stationeries, which oftentimes results in elevated cost and or delay in delivery of goods to the departments,” Lightbourne explained.
The CPU will also standardise several similar products into one main brand to reduce the cost of sourcing supplies to operate and maintain each product.
The offsite location in Providenciales is up and running, the minister stated, which has reduced the incurrence of additional freight charges to stock.
“There is therefore now a better system for acquiring and timely disseminating much needed office supplies to TCIG offices in Providenciales.”
According to Lightbourne this has greatly reduced the number of complaints that the goods are not reaching the other islands or they are taking a very long time to get there.
The CPU is also embarking on training for their staff to enhance their ability and performance.
ENERGY AND UTILITES
The cost and price of electricity remains one of the top issues which must be addressed in earnest, Lightbourne stressed in his speech.
“The transition of the electricity sector to a more sustainable energy future is contingent on several pieces of work that will be undertaken in this financial year and in proceeding years.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the Carbon War Room to collaborate on several key activities to accelerate the uptake of sustainable energy initiatives.
The body is recognised as being a significant partner in supporting the successful completion of the various pieces of work and reform yet to be complete.
Consultation on the Draft Energy Policy will be concluded in mid-July where the feedback from stakeholders will help to shape the final TCI Energy Policy to be approved by Cabinet.
Reform of the legislative and regulatory frameworks of the electricity sector will ensure that the country takes full advantage of least cost electricity generation resources by allowing the integration of solar, wind and other viable renewable energy resources as well as transitional fuel such as natural gas, into the energy mix.
“This I believe, will lead to a reduction on our dependence on fossil fuels as well as a reduction in energy costs and prices,” Lightbourne wrote.
The reforms will also revise the current power cost adjustment mechanism, revise the service provider profitability margins, and introduce customer service and quality of service standards.
This year the Energy Awareness Campaign launched in the latter part of 2013 will be boosted to ensure the public at large, engages in energy efficiency and energy conservation practices and habits to reduce energy demand and costs.
The ministry has commenced energy auditing of Government owned and Government occupied buildings which will identify opportunities for energy and cost savings going forward.
A bill will be brought to the House of Assembly to amend the Electricity Ordinance and provide for the establishment of a board with the responsibility of licensing people who carry out electrical work in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“In effect, it will make it illegal to practice as an electrician unless you are the holder of a licence in one of the designated categories,” Lightbourne explained.
This year the ministry also plans to develop a Water and Sewerage Policy and to put in place enabling regulations to better regulate the sector.
The new laws will ensure better oversight to ensure higher compliance to health and safety standards by water haulers, owners and operators of sewerage treatment plants as well as water production plants and facilities.
The mechanisms will also ensure increased monitoring and management of our inland and coastal waters.
Regulations will also be put in place to ensure a licensing regime for premises, buildings, tanks or other erections for the storage and handling of petroleum and hazardous materials as well as to authorise their importation into the TCI.
The underlying objective is to ensure appropriate conduct and compliance to established safety codes and standards, given high risks inherent in this sector.
RADIO TURKS AND CAICOS
Over the coming financial year Radio Turks and Caicos (RTC) will install a 5000watt transmitter, antenna and cable in Middle Caicos at a cost of $15,000 to turn it into the central focus for the country’s coverage.
The existing 300watt unit will be removed from the Middle Caicos site and installed in Grand Turk, while the 1kw transmitter from Grand Turk will be installed in Providenciales alongside the existing 1kw.
A circular polarisation antenna will be added on to both transmitters – one facing Leeward and the other towards Downtown – at a cost of about $10,000.
The station will also be relocating its Grand Turk office to a more “technologically feasible and spacious” location.
The Blackberry application has been complete and can receive advertising tied to the website which has been recently reconstructed and enhanced.
This year there are several prospective new radio shows with new hosts which will educate and entertain along with enhancements to existing shows.
Two hundred new mail boxes are already on the ground and an additional 200 are due to arrive in the country shortly. These mail boxes will be placed in Grace Bay before October.
The management of the postal and bureau services also plans to expand the mailbox service to some residential homes.
“These mailboxes will be specially ordered and thus designed uniquely for the homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This project is expected to come on stream by 2016,” Lightbourne said.
More mailboxes will be placed in hotels and business areas in Providenciales and at the Cruise Centre in Grand Turk to make it more convenient for tourists to use the postal services.
The boxes are presently being designed locally and should in place by the end of the year.
Plans are in place to introduce the ruby system to make the tracking of register mail available.
The logistics are currently being worked out and the necessary software is expected to be purchased by 2015 for implementation by the end of the year.
An IPS light tracking system will be introduced for express mail. This will enable customers and the Postal and Bureau Services to track the express mail throughout the world.
The software is expected to be purchased during the upcoming financial year with completion between 2015 and 2016.
“Presently all international mail leaves the Turks and Caicos via American Airlines for Miami where they are sorted and sent on to their various destinations,” the minister said.
“This has resulted in unnecessary delays for some neighbouring countries due to slow sorting in Miami.”
Negotiations are in place with Air Turks and Caicos on the transportation of mail to Jamaica, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.
If negotiations are successful this project may be implemented by 2016.
Safe mail, a mail holding service and mail redirection service will be offered at cost to customers.
In addition the management of the Postal and Bureau Services plans to hold a stamp exhibition to showcase the service and stamps issues in 2016.
Suggestion boxes have been placed at the Post Offices to allow frank and open discussion with the public on improvements that can be made to service them better.
And finally an essay completion is being planned for both primary and high school students to get young people interested in the postal services.
PUBLISHING AND TELECOMS
The Publishing Department will be expanding its services to better provide for the printing needs of the Government and the public and is relocating to a more central location.
According to the minister this will drastically increase its service delivery to the general public to provide printing needs at the same time generating additional revenue.
Within the next two years the Telecoms Centre will expand to a fully-fledged call centre with a help desk.
“It will allow better functioning, as they will be able to schedule and record progress to completion of any faults and or maintenance issues received, as well as it will allow TCIG to better disseminate information to the public overall,” Lightbourne explained.
The initial implementation of the Digicel system is complete and the centre currently has three CISCO switchboards.
Within the next few months the centre should have the system up and running and totally functional, completing the migration and rendering the former Lime system obsolete.
When the system is fully migrated additional staff will be recruited, as the automated system has been refuted, the minister said.
Current staff is also scheduled to receive training as required within the next two years.
Over the next year the Telecommunications Commission will implement legislation to adequately institute and regulate the industry.
The areas of focus will include economic regulation of prices and interconnection, finalising of the Broadcasting Ordinance and Telecommunications Ordinance, enhancements to their Spectrum Management System, staff training, analysing licences and Spectrum fees, enhancement of Quality of Service Standards and Telecommunications Equipment Standards, and the development of a Consumer Code. (RB)