Efforts to clean up the Urban Development Commission (UDC) to help it fulfil its mandate for the poor and needy of the urban corridor in Barbados are being met with some obstacles.
This was revealed during a recent interview by Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Urban Development (MSCU), Dr. Denis Lowe, who said: “We are at this moment assessing the number of needy cases that should have been addressed by the UDC and carrying out an ongoing rigorous forensic audit, which has been met with resistance in some cases. However, let me state that the auditors are moving ahead to present the preliminary report by August 15.”
Indicating that the Ministry had to look at some personnel issues, which would have impaired the current flow of services, Minister Lowe said: “Unfortunately, there has been an appreciable slow down in the execution of critical works. While it pains us to be unable to execute these critical works on behalf of the poor and indigent of the urban corridor, we are forced to remain steadfast in our attempts to clean up the UDC. Every passing day a new issue is revealed.”
Another area of concern has been the absence of critical records, particularly in the area of urban housing. “In trying to catalogue an accurate listing of all UDC properties over the last six months, we have been unable to retrieve this information from any source connected to the UDC,” the Minister disclosed.
Citing how significant an issue this was, Dr. Lowe said: “There are cases where houses are listed as being built and cannot be identified. There are also some houses claimed to be built by multiple contractors, who have received payment for them. In some cases, a property was listed as new and paid for by the UDC, and on investigation it was discovered to be an old house. Also, during a recent tour we came across a vacant UDC house, of which the Commission was unaware.”
In light of these happenings, the Minister stressed: “We trust that the public will understand why there has been a slow down in the furtherance of the objectives of the UDC. It would be negligent on our part to proceed with a governance agenda that does not arrest the institutionalised dysfunctions that exist at the Commission.”
However, as indicated by Dr. Lowe, the process of addressing and rectifying the housing and road needs of the urban corridor would receive the Commission’s full attention in the very near future.
Meanwhile, new standards will be implemented to govern financial practices, the selection of contractors, quality assurance and the overall execution of services provided by the Urban Development Commission. “These standards will drive the flow and accuracy of information that will have an immediate and real impact on day-to day activities, services and results of the Commission,” the Minister underscored.
Reiterating the commitment of the MSCU and Government as a whole, Dr. Lowe observed: “It is our purpose and passion to ensure that while the poor and indigent in the urban corridor experience the full impact of Government’s attempts to eradicate poverty and to increase the standard of living, that the State gets full value for its investment in the improvement of urban dwellers. We, in the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Urban Development are determined to manage the UDC to bring about a transparent, accountable and results-oriented delivery of meaningful social development services.”